SC lawmakers looking to streamline statewide workforce development efforts

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – One of the top leaders at the South Carolina State House has his sights set on bolstering economic development this year.

The state just closed out a record year in that arena, securing more than $10 billion in capital investment.

On Wednesday, an economic development committee formed last summer by Speaker of the House Murrell Smith, R – Sumter, made its first recommendation to the General Assembly on how to continue this success into the future.

It comes after that panel has been meeting for months, hearing testimony and ideas on what the state can do to foster even more development.

“This is the first step in a long journey with this committee to make sure that we’re preparing this state for the future growth and future population growth in South Carolina,” Smith said at a press conference Wednesday at the State House.

The House Economic Development and Utility Modernization Ad Hoc Committee filed its first bill Wednesday, titled the “Statewide Education and Workforce Development Act.”

“It will create the Office of Statewide Workforce Development, which will consolidate, align, and coordinate all publicly funded workforce development dollars in this state,” Rep. Jay West, R – Anderson and the committee’s chair, said.

Legislators said right now, many of these programs are operating in separate silos under separate divisions and departments across the state and not necessarily communicating with each other about what they are doing.

This new office would be housed under the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, DEW.

“We will have a performance accountability system to track the outcomes of this program, which will hopefully ensure a positive return on our investment of our state and a benefit to our taxpayers,” West said.

The comprehensive bill would require an annual analysis of how many jobs are open across the state and how many graduates there are to fill them.

It would also create a “one-stop-shop” portal for students and jobseekers to find job openings by region, see what qualifications they need, and compare salaries.

The legislation would call for the development of a 10-year strategic plan to boost the state’s labor force participation rate, as nearly half of South Carolinians who are old enough and eligible to work are not employed or actively looking for a job.

South Carolina’s rate is currently one of the lowest in the country and trails the national average.

“This bill is about making sure we’re taking care of South Carolinians, and I think importantly to do that, we’re going to need, as Chairman West just said, to increase our labor participation rate. We’re going to need to keep our homegrown talent here in the state of South Carolina,” Smith said.

The committee does not yet have an estimate of how much it would cost to implement this bill, but Smith said he expects that cost would be covered in the next state budget.

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