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Duke backs Clemson workforce development center

Anand K. Gramopadhye, director of Clemson’s Center for Workforce Development, said Duke’s grant will help extend the center’s reach into all K-12 schools in the state. (Photo/Clemson University)
Anand K. Gramopadhye, director of Clemson’s Center for Workforce Development, said Duke’s grant will help extend the center’s reach into all K-12 schools in the state. (Photo/Clemson University)

Staff Report
Published Jan. 31, 2013

Duke Energy is donating $4.11 million to Clemson University’s Center for Workforce Development to expand the scope of the online portal for workforce-critical degree and certificate programs across the spectrum of South Carolina education.

Clark Gillespy, president of Duke Energy for S.C.
Clark Gillespy, president of Duke Energy for S.C.
The gift is part of the Charlotte-based energy company’s commitment to expand South Carolina’s manufacturing base, said Clark Gillespy, president of the South Carolina operations of Duke Energy.

Duke’s grant will help the Clemson center create a labor force with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and specifically in advanced manufacturing, officials said.

Clemson will manage educational, research and outreach activities in support of workforce development and STEM education. The center will also oversee distribution of the funds to partner institutions that include universities, technical colleges, K-12 institutions and STEM-oriented organizations through competitive grants, scholarships and internships.

Center’s federal support
The workforce development center was started in 2011, funded by a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

It is a partnership with Clemson and three of the state’s technical colleges. The program focuses on aviation and automotive technology education and uses virtual and distance learning.

The partnership created Advanced Technological Education resource centers at Florence-Darlington Technical College, Greenville Technical College, Trident Technical College and at Clemson’s Sandhill Center in Richland County.

The center’s initiatives

Duke Energy’s funding, combined with previously announced funding from federal agencies, allows Clemson’s Center for Workforce Development to focus on four key areas:

  • Improving education, capacity and access through e-learning and virtual reality simulation tools.
  • Creating career pathways, college affordability and graduation rate improvement.
  • Supporting K-12 STEM education initiatives.
  • Industry cluster networking through outreach and research.

Clemson has engaged all 16 of the state’s technical colleges in the program, and eventually plans to extend its reach into all K-12 schools in the state, said Anand K. Gramopadhye, Clemson’s associate vice president for economic development and director of the Center for Workforce Development.

The Clemson center has also received federal funding from the Department of Labor and the Employment and Training Administration.

‘Far-reaching partnerships’
“Duke Energy recognizes that workforce development and economic development go hand in hand,” Gillespy said. “The Center for Workforce Development, through its far-reaching partnerships, addresses the challenges of creating next-generation engineers, technicians and scientists so the region and nation can continue to be competitive in a global marketplace.”

Doris R. Helms, Clemson University vice president for academic affairs and provost, said the university is committed to meeting the state’s technical workforce needs at every level, not just jobs requiring a four-year or advanced degree.

“Our goal is to ensure our citizens are ready to compete and succeed in the job market, particularly in the advanced manufacturing sector that is so essential to South Carolina’s economy,” Helms said.

Secretary of Bobby Hitt said the state must close the gap between workforce skills and business needs in order to stay a leader in advanced manufacturing.

“This partnership between the state and the business community extends across the entire education spectrum and addresses the growing and emergent workforce development issue,” Hitt said.

Some 58,000 manufacturing jobs remained unfilled last fall, according to Hitt, in part because of a mismatch between workers’ skills and those skills required for today’s manufacturing jobs.

Duke Energy’s funding will help create virtual resources designed to support industrial development, sponsor competitive grant opportunities for K-12 and technical college classrooms, support scholarships and internships, and finance conferences to create greater awareness of workforce development issues, Clemson said.

Gramopadhye said the program is vital for workforce development in South Carolina.

“Our goal is to develop more qualified employees to work in industries that drive the nation’s economy,” Gramopadhye said. “By fostering these partnerships, we can develop the workforce of the future.”

Previous coverage

Clemson appoints associate VP for workforce development
Clemson announces initiative to educate automotive, aerospace workers

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