Showing posts with label workforce development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label workforce development. Show all posts

Senator Campbell: Long-term unemployed must volunteer in return for benefits


If Berkeley County State Senator Paul Campbell has his way, those who are long-term unemployed and are receiving unemployment benefits would have to perform volunteer community service in order to continue receiving state assistance.

Senate Bill 1049, which Campbell sponsored, has an LCI Committee hearing tomorrow, was motivated by his experience as a plant manager for Alcoa. This requirement would apply to those who were out of work twenty-six weeks (six months) after first filing for employment, and would require them to perform at least sixteen hours a week of "suitable" volunteer work in order to continue receiving assistance.

In talking with the Blogland, Campbell said he sponsored the bill because he was concerned that "it's easier to find a job if you've got one. Being out of work long-term make it difficult to get back into the job market, and if you can't get bavk to work, you, your family and your community lose out. That's the bottom line."

Senator Campbell isn't the only one who sees it that way. Being an HR person, I learned a long time ago that it's better to keep people doing something than to leave them completely idle. Once they stop working, it's harder to get them back into a job as they get out of the habits necessary for work and they stop keeping their skills current.

The "Man-cession"

This recession has caused some of the biggest transformations seen in the American workforce in decades. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, these changes have included women taking the lead in today's workforce:
Steady increases among women with college degrees over the past two decades apparently paid off during the recession, with government statistics showing they fared better than men over the past year, and for the first time surpassed the number of men holding payroll jobs.

The article attributes this change as being driven by the economic downturn putting the squeeze on lesser-skilled positions, giving women, who have more college degrees than men, an advantage in today's job market.

This might be a good reason for guys to go back to school.

Commerce Secretary speaks out for tort and worker's comp reform

State Commerce Secretary weighed into the ongoing tort and workers' comp reform efforts this afternoon, publicly endorsing legislation that would help address both issues, by reining in frivilous legal actions against employers.  He pointed out what those of us in economic and workforce development know all to well:

Moving workers' compensation reform and tort reform forward now would strenghten our businese environment and thus increase our competitiveness. While numerous factors influence a company's location decision, we have found that fundamental issues like tort laws and workers' compensation play a key role in every location decision.
Amen, Brother.

CU-ICAR to graduate first PhD in Automotive Engineering this week

Nearly twenty years ago, when BMW made its committment to South Carolina, some visionaries predicted it would be just the first of many changes that the automotive industry would make in the Upstate.

On Thursday, another milestone in that transformative process will be reached when
John Limroth receives the first-ever PhD in Automotive Engineering from Clemson's ICAR program, based in Greenville:


John Limroth of Austin, Texas, will graduate Dec. 17 with Clemson University’s first automotive-engineering Ph.D.

Clemson launched its automotive-engineering program in 2006 at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) campus. Until fall 2009 it was the only automotive-engineering Ph.D. program in the United States listed in Peterson’s, a well-known guide to colleges and universities. The Clemson automotive-engineering program graduated nine master’s degree students in 2009. Limroth is the first to graduate with a Ph.D.

“We are very proud of John Limroth and this milestone for our automotive-engineering program,” said Tom Kurfess, Limroth’s adviser and professor and BMW Chair of Manufacturing in the mechanical engineering department at Clemson. “Our program is interdisciplinary and our students are from a wide variety of engineering and science backgrounds. They live, eat, sleep and breathe automotive engineering. We are a highly focused group that addresses systems engineering with a specific focus on the automobile. All of our courses use the automobile as our educational platform.”

Mr. Limroth has already begun work for Michelin. While he is one of the first ICAR graduates to go to work a South Carolina-based company, he won't be the last. The ability of ICAR to produce executive-track employees presents the long-term potential to make the Palmetto State even more attractive to the automotive industry.

This news should also give Clemson fans a little something to be proud of. In the wake of their recent thrashing by the Gamecocks, they could probably use some good news right about now.

Back in 2007, we talked about the importance of this program, and are pleased to see it bearing its first fruit. Dr. Limroth has our heart-felt congratulations for his accomplishment, and our appreciation for his part in helping South Carolina take another step forward in its efforts to be a competitive player in the global economy of the 21st Century.

But before his leaps into his new job, we hope he gets a couple of weeks off to enjoy some family time with his wife and kids - they've earned it.

Employment roundtable missing the point

Governor Sanford has finally caught up with what he missed during his Argentinian vacation ... his European vacation ... his "apology tour" ... and realized there's a problem with unemployment in South Carolina. To show how much he's not about "politics as usual", he's going to do something about it.

According to the friendly folks at FITS, he's going to hold a roundtable discussion (which is a great way to get taxpayers to pony up for a free lunch and do nothing):



S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford will host an “unemployment roundtable (sic)” later this month, according to a press release issued Friday from his office.

Aside from the fact that “round” and “table” are two separate words (grrrrr!), what exactly is Sanford hoping to accomplish with this latest distraction? It’s even worse when you consider that the seats at Sanford’s table (which damn well better be round) are going to be filled by the same lazy asses that have been holding this state back for decades on the economic development front.

“Members of the General Assembly, key leaders from the business community, relevant officials from across state government, members of the media and interested citizens” are being invited to attend the round table, Sanford’s office says.


A story which hit the AP wire today can give you a little insight as to why unemployment is so difficult to address - without a roundtable discussion:


Economists say the main problem is a mismatch between available work and people qualified to do it. Millions of jobs with attractive pay and benefits that once drew legions of workers to the auto industry, construction, Wall Street and other sectors are gone, probably for good. And those who lost those jobs generally lack the right experience for new positions popping up in health care, energy and engineering.

Many of these specialized jobs were hard to fill even before the recession. But during downturns, recruiters tend to become even choosier, less willing to take financial risks on untested workers.

The mismatch between job opening and job seeker is likely to persist even as the economy strengthens and begins to add jobs. It also will make it harder for the unemployment rate, now at 9.8 percent, to drop down to a healthier level.


As someone who does hiring for a real business, this story hits the nail on the head about a problem companies face. As unskilled jobs become automated and outsourced, a process which accelerates during downturns when companies are forced to make tough decisions about cutting costs and realigning workforces and operation, other jobs become more complex and require skills and education levels which are hard to find in today's workforce. This means unemployment will lag behind an economic recovery because those who filled bottom-rung jobs before a recession will find a lot fewer jobs for people those skill levels when the economy recovers.

I tried to make some of the same points earlier this year, back when the Governor was trying to score political points in kicking around the ESC (which had been warning about their funding problems for years now):

If I run an ad for a part-time administrative position or an unskilled laborer, I'll get deluged with calls and applications - usually upwards of 100 applications will be filed for any of those positions. But if I run an ad for a skilled position, I'm lucky to get more than a dozen applications, and if I run an ad for a foreman or equipment mechanic, I'll get even fewer applicants.

In spite of a wide and growing range of adult ed, vocational and technical programs designed to help retrain workers who don't have the skills to compete in today's job market, there are far fewer people entering these programs than the number of people whose low-skilled jobs were eliminated.

So we end up with a lot of people who aren't qualified for the jobs that are available - and don't seem interested in advancing themselves - and employers who are forced to scale back operations, move to where there is a good workforce, or not come to South Carolina at all.

The fact of the matter is the biggest impediments to workforce and economic development aren't politicians, taxes, or the lack of school choice, but rather those who choose to not pursue the education necessary to compete for the more-skilled jobs which are out there.

It's hard to see how the Governor's much-delayed response, via a roundtable discussion, is going to help address that problem.

Lowcountry Workforce Development for Breakfast

This morning's Local Elected Officials breakfast put on by the staff of the Trident Workforce Investment Board gave those who attended a great opportunity to learn more about what the region's One Stop Centers are doing, and how they can address the needs and concerns of local elected officials. Lowcountry state reps Robert Brown, Joe Danning, Jenny Horne, Anne Hutto, Tim Scott and David Umphlett showed up, along with various elected and appointed county officials from the region.

These reps included all but one of the freshmen House members from the Charleston area, a testament to the continuing can-do attitude shown by this year's Freshman Caucus, led by Scott. Several of them participated in a Question and Answer session with Workforce Board staff members.

Workforce development issues have been at the center of a lot of controversy this year, and given the high unemployment caused by the current economic downturn, it's good to see that these legislators chose to come get the facts for themselves.

Mark your calendar: Trident Workforce Investment Board's annual elected officials breakfast

Recently, a lot of attention has been placed upon the issue of workforce development and job creation, courtesy of the recent ESC showdown, as well as with staggeringly-high unemployment rates.

County and legislative elected officials from the Lowcountry have an opportunity to come and learn what the One Stop Centers overseen by the Trident Workforce Investment Board are doing next week at a special Local Elected Officials breakfast event:

Tuesday, May 26 at 7:30 a.m.
Trident One-Stop Career Center
Hanahan Drive, just off Rivers Avenue

We've already confirmed a number of county officals, as well as legislators, who are coming. If this is you and you haven't confirmed, then please take the time to mark your calendar and let us know you're coming!

NAWB report: "Two Million Minutes" sounds workforce development alarm

The end result of workforce development efforts - whether through traditional processes, such as primary and secondary schools, or through less traditional approaches, such as workforce development organizations or community/technical colleges - is to empower individuals to be successful and productive citizens.

But in today's world, the comparison isn't just to our fellow Americans. Today's citizens must be successful relative to a standard which includes those in China and India.

For those trapped in the post-WWII worldview, where the United States alone was spared the devastation that swept the world: Europe and much of the Pacific basin was in ruins. The British empire, considered to be the most-likely second power of the post-war era, staggered in the post-war era and collapsed.

That era allowed the United States an opportunity to prosper and lead much of the world, which it did. However, in the sixty years since the war ended, the ruined nations of Asia and Europe recovered, inspired by our innovations and often able to grow thanks to our military umbrella. Now they're fully-developed nations who are competing with us ... and sometimes leading us.

The movie "2 Million Minutes", which was the subject of a panel discussion, was a documentary which examined the differences in our primary career development vehicle: the high school, compared to India and China. The differences presented in the comparisons which the video makes are striking - ones we fail to notice, much less question, and will play major roles in our ability to lead, much less compete, for the next two generations.

The write-up on the movie website represents key issues discussed in the movie:

Statistics for American high school students give rise to concern for our student's education in math and science. Less than 40 percent of U.S. students take a science course more rigorous than general biology, and a mere 18 percent take advanced classes in physics, chemistry or biology. Only 45 percent of U.S. students take math coursework beyond two years of algebra and one year of geometry. And 50 percent of all college freshmen require remedial coursework.

Meanwhile, both India and China have made dramatic leaps in educating their middle classes - each comparable in size to the entire U.S. population. Compared to the U.S., China now produces eight times more scientists and engineers, while India puts out up to three times as many as the U.S. Additionally, given the affordability of their wages, China and India are now preferred destinations for increasing numbers of multinational high-tech corporations.

Just as the Soviets' launch of a tiny satellite ignited a space race and impelled America to improve its science education, many experts feel the United States has reached its next "Sputnik moment." The goal of this film is to help answer the question: Are we doing enough with the time we have to ensure the best future for all?

For those who worry about where we're headed, it's something to watch.

Workforce Boards National Conference

Yours truly will be on the road for a few days to attend the 2008 annual National Conference of Workforce Boards in Washington, D.C.

This will be a great opportunity to meet other people like myself who are involved in workforce development from communities across the United States. Among the many workshops and seminars that I'll be attending, keynote speakers will include:


  • Daniel Pink, best-selling author and expert on innovation, competition and the changing world of work will speak at the Opening Session on Sunday morning.
  • Newt Gingrich, author, speaker and architect of the "Contract With America" will present at Monday's Keynote Session.
  • Gene B. Sperling, former National Economic Advisor to President Clinton, consultant and writer, will kick-off the closing session on Tuesday.

In addition, I plan to do some sightseeing around the city, visit some Eastern Catholic parishes around the metro area, and visit some places where I used to live out in the Maryland suburbs when I was a kid.

Looks for news and photos from the trip. I'll be leaving tomorrow.

Y'all be sure to have a great weekend!

Congratulations, we're losing (again)

More great news about the Palmetto State:

South Carolina came in near the bottom in the latest state-by-state economic competitiveness matchup, with the researchers citing high crime, poor infrastructure, high unemployment rates and dismal educational and human resource offerings as their reasons for ranking the state 42nd on the list of 50.

The seventh annual State Competitiveness Report 2007, released in late December by The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston, ranks states in terms of their competitiveness based on a number of specific criteria. Those criteria include government and fiscal policies, infrastructure, education, human services, technology and business incubation.

South Carolina’s position has dropped steadily in the report during the past three years, ranking 29th in 2005 and 37th in 2006.

While the state Department of Commerce is eager to pat itself on the back about bringing more jobs than ever to South Carolina (which is fair), nobody wants to talk about the fact that we're losing about as many jobs.

South Carolina isn't an economic development engine, it's an economic development turnstile - which is great if you have low skills and don't mind a short-term job with poor or few benefits, but lousy if you want to provide a stable livelihood for your family. Not to mention lousy if we want to have communities which are stable, healthy, and crime-free:


The human resources category was largely responsible for dragging down South Carolina’s ranking this time around. The report noted poor high school graduation rates, higher numbers of uninsured residents, higher rates of infant mortality and unemployment compared to other states. The state was 47th in this category.

Who do we blame for this ongoing economic and cultural sinkhole?

  • The politicians who think you can "buy" jobs with a combination of low-skilled/low-wage labor (which is subsidized via subsidized housing, food stamps, and Medicaid), tax breaks and taxpayer-funded incentives,

  • Community leaders in those areas most-affected by the factors which are contributing to this problem for not using their bully pulpits to convince people to stay in school, stop dealing drugs and committing crimes, and for once, take some responsibility for themselves and their community,

  • Most importantly ... US. These sad statistics aren't about people from Georgia or North Carolina. They're about South Carolinians, who seem to only be able at exceeding the national average at doing things wrong, bad, and stupid.

The reality is that a state where far too many people seem to accept that it's ok to drop out of our schools, get involved in drugs and crime, have kids at 16, and pride themselves more for their garishly-decorated cars and clothes than their education or careers, we're going to be shunned. To be honest, we deserve to be.

As a 10th grade dropout who was a parent at 18, I've helped contribute to these depressing statistics. But as someone who will be receiving my Master's degree in May, I've worked hard to better myself and set a higher standard for others to follow.

If I can work this hard to pull myself up, so can others. If we want a better South Carolina, it's time we find the cojones to admit we ARE the problem, and for once, start doing something to really change the predicament that we're in.

Otherwise, we're not the victims of this situation - we're volunteers.

Shirley Hinson: Thank You & Good Luck

Since Shirley Hinson’s post-Thanksgiving retirement announcement, a number of people in the blogosphere have asked me for my take on things. So, I'll set aside the books, research journals, and academic writing and get it off my chest ...

My involvement with Shirley goes back quite a while. In 2000, I ran the campaign for her opponent in the GOP run-off. Understandably, she and I were not on good terms for several years afterwards. However, she was gracious and when we were on the same side of an issue, we were able to put first things first and work together. I truly appreciate her willingness to do so.

There are some issues that surround her 2000 race. Those who wish to continue to dwell upon those old issues should take note that she supported Jimmy Hinson for the school board last year, and he supported her for the Senate this year. If they can move on, then so should everyone else.

In recent years, her and I were on the same side in a number of efforts and I’ve been grateful for her assistance. This includes my work last fall to oust several members of the Berkeley County school board who had embraced “alternative funding”, and the Lowcountry Graduate Center.

When she saw an open seat in the Senate as an opportunity to take on a new challenge, she may have been surprised to find me among one of her first and most outspoken supporters, but I was proud to do so. The outcome of that campaign may not have been what she deserved, but I was proud to support her in what has turned out to be her final legislative campaign.

Shirley’s new role at the Lowcountry Graduate Center offers her a great new opportunity. As I am the Vice-Chair of the Communication Department’s Alumni Council at the College of Charleston, which relies on the LGC/North Campus to host our undergrad Corporate Communication major and Master of the Arts program, I can tell you firsthand she’s been a great partner.

Shirley’s new role will allow her to be an even greater asset to the LGC, as well as to better serve the needs of the workforce and business community of the Lowcountry. In this new venture, she can again count on my full support, as well as my best wishes and prayers for success.

Cutting-edge business & academic partnerships in the Carolinas

In "Michigan needs to look south", in the Detroit News, columnist Daniel Howes looks at how the Carolinas are working to partner higher education with cutting-edge manufacturing technology development, and in doing so, is leaving Detroit behind.

The business-and-political establishment of the Carolinas is doing what their counterparts in Michigan and here on Mackinac Island are only beginning to comprehend amid a gloomy fiscal outlook: Leveraging the power of higher education drives economic growth, attracts foreign and domestic investment and improves the caliber of would-be employees.

The story discusses USC, Clemson and UNC, but pays special attention to Clemson University's ICAR:

Now, it's Clemson University in South Carolina -- not the University of Michigan -- that is home to the International Center for Automotive Research, a 200-acre campus that BMW AG built for $100 million and donated to Clemson.

More about Clemson's ICAR facility:


CU-ICAR is a new model for economic development in South Carolina, matching Clemson's strengths in automotive research with the state's strong automotive economic cluster. CU-ICAR is a 250-acre "technopolis" where BMW, Michelin, Timken, Sun Microsystems and other corporate partners are joining with Clemson to focus on automotive and motorsports research and other transportation issues. The State of South Carolina is also a key partner, having created legislation to support economic development and innovation.


At Clemson's ICAR, the latest news includes Computational Center for Mobility Systems, featuring a high performance computing (HPC) system from Sun Microsystems which will allow the center to perform cutting-edge product development for the automotive, aerospace and shipping industries, as well as the soon-to-open Carroll A. Campbell Jr. Graduate Engineering Center, which will allow Clemson to grant the first Masters and Doctoral degrees in Automotive Engineering.

This is big news indeed, and a heck of an achievement for the academic, business and governmental team partners who made this vision a reality. Also one more good reason why we need to reassess the structure and missions of our state's higher and technical education systems, so Clemson and USC can focus more aggressively in these areas.

Workkeys: A better test than PACT?


In serving on the regional Workforce Investment Board, I get exposed to a lot of things in the arena of workforce development, including standardized testing.

Last week, I talked about the growing questions surrounding the PACT test, and promised further discussion, so I wanted to introduce my readers who are interested in education policy to WorkKeys.

WorkKeys is becoming a major tool for assessing workplace related skills, especially when it comes to selecting new employees and eligibility for promotions in technical and manufacturing jobs, which are in short supply in this state. This is the inevitable outcome of a process in which a high school diploma has become an ineffective measure of ones abilities and potential - employers are forced to find a better way to find out what someone is really capable of.

My board, which operates the main One Stop career center in the Charleston area, offers WorkKeys testing to help adults make themselves more marketable to potential employers.

WorkKeys was created by the folks at ACT, the college exam people. The test assesses test-takers on a wide range of skills:

  • Applied Mathematics (uses calculator/45 minutes)
  • Applied Technology (45 minutes)
  • Listening (audiotape presentation/ 40 minutes)
  • Locating Information (45 minutes)
  • Observation (videotape presentation/ Part 1: 30 minutes/ Part 2: 30 minutes)
  • Reading for Information (45 minutes
  • Teamwork (videotape presentation/ Part 1: 40 minutes/ Part 2: 40 minutes)
  • Writing (audiotape presentation/ 40 minutes)
But unlike the all-important PACT test, where our lives must be on hold and revolve around the testing and release of scores in a slow, annual cycle like the sun, WorkKeys scores are returned in days, and they are even posted in individual accounts online for test-takers and potential employers to review. Some states are even turning to WorkKeys as part of their high school exit exam criteria, or pushing for broad WorkKeys testing of high school students, to help assess career directions.

A test that is used nationwide, is respected by employers, can be graded in days, and could easily be implemented on a wide scale without mega-million dollar consulting fees ... that's exactly the kind of dangerous and subversive talk that would never see the light of day in South Carolina education policy.

A game of PACT Scam?


Columbia, S.C. – February 22, 2007 – The same company that currently reaps millions of dollars to grade South Carolina’s controversial Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT) has now been awarded a contract to oversee reforms to the test. Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corporation, which is represented in South Carolina by political heavyweight Warren Tompkins’ lobbying firm, Tompkins, Kinard & Associates, won a $54 million contract in 2003 to grade the PACT.

Now, that same company has been awarded an $825,000 contract to recommend PACT reforms, an arrangement some consider a conflict of interest.

“Now that’s the fox guarding the henhouse,” said former State Board of Education member Terrye Seckinger.

Legislators agreed.

“I would be more interested in hearing a fresh perspective on PACT than hearing from someone who has been providing PACT services for years,” said State Rep. Phillip Shoopman, a former member of the State Board of Education. “I have yet to meet a teacher who is thrilled with PACT, so going back to that well doesn’t make sense to me.”

A year or so ago, I took my GRE exam - a two-hour exam which was my last obstacle to be an official graduate student (I had gotten in on a waiver since the program was new). It took me two hours and I got my scores on the spot (I even passed it, believe it or not). Many other similar tests are administered and scored via computer.

If it's done for those seeking professional certifications and entry into graduate programs, then I have two questions:
  • Why does the PACT test have to be done the way it is?
  • Who stands to benefit/profit from the way it is presently being done?
The answers to these questions will likely tell us a lot about why they won't modernize the state's assessment tests.

About five years ago, when a friend of mine who was then on the State Board of Education was one of those who tried to stop local school districts from continuing to creep their start dates back to early August. Why the need for a change? They need more time to teach the PACT test ... to get the desired scores ... to rig the system.

Anyone who has been through college will remember those required general ed classes, where the professor was an adjunct or new on faculty who got stuck with the class. They had to be there, and so did we. To let each other off the hook, we agreed to show up for class, they'd "teach the test", we'd pass it and go on to real classes.

Well, that's the PACT test

Maybe it's no big deal that we graduate kids who show up my office unable to fill out a job application or pass a drug test, but when the PACT test has become such an obsession that it's now considered a higher priority than football season or condom distribution ... you know it's a real problem.

I'll bet THAT last sentence got your attention! I'm not sure about footballs and condoms, but if Mr. Rex would like to see the job application skills of high school graduates, I'd be more than happy to let him see what they turn in.

... I'll have more discussion about how we assess our state's student population next week, so please stay tuned.

Beyond Politics: Workforce Development

Beyond election year politics, one of the most critical challenges facing South Carolina is that of the quality of our workforce.

The quality of our workforce affects a lot of aspects of life in South Carolina. While the more obvious impacts are felt in terms of economic development and employment statistics, there are impacts on a wide range of other issues. This has a real impact upon the lives of the people of our state.

Unfortunately, too many areas of our state rely on low-wage, low-skill industry and distribution centers, where the pay is so low that workers require public assistance to meet their basic needs for housing, food, and health care, and the companies expect hefty tax breaks to provide these jobs. The real solution is to have a quality workforce which can attract a higher quality of industry that wants and expects a top-notch workforce, and is willing to pay to get it.

In a recent op-ed in the Myrtle Beach Sun News, Darla Moore, the Chairman of the Palmetto Institute, raises some valid concerns about the problems we face here in South Carolina:



S.C. counties can no longer only compete against each other for jobs and win. Our competitors are global.

A diploma no longer is enough; workers must have real-world technical skills to meet employer demands.

That's a big challenge for our state that, according to the U. S. Census Bureau, has as many as 600,000 workers who do not have a high school diploma or the literacy and technical skills to hold a meaningful job for three years. That's one-third of our work force.


That's a real problem that will keep our state from getting the good-paying jobs needed to raise household incomes, move families off public assistance, and bring much-needed economic stability to our rural communities.

In serving on the regional Workforce Investment Board, and doing HR work for my company, as well as others I've worked with before, I see these problems every day. Addressing these issues requires a team effort from all of us.

The recent move of Workforce Investment efforts to the state's Commerce Department was a step in the right direction. This recent report from the Palmetto Institute points the way for continued improvement of our workforce development efforts.

We don't have much time to lose ...