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University official says STEM education can fill workforce pipeline

By Liz Segrist
Published Feb. 7, 2013

At the height of the recession, 32% of manufacturing jobs nationwide went unfilled due to the unskilled labor pool, said Anand Gramopadhye, director of Clemson’s Center for Workforce Development.

“We have a growing problem,” Gramopadhye said during the 2013 S.C. Automotive Summit in Greenville Wednesday. “This wasn’t a problem that was created in the last two to three years. It’s a systemic problem and a Band-Aid solution won’t fix it.”

Anand Gramopadhye, director of Clemson’s Center for Workforce Development
Anand Gramopadhye
He advocated a better emphasis on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — subjects throughout a student’s educational career.

Gramopadhye said much of the S.C. education system is not preparing students for the careers of today and of tomorrow.

“In South Carolina, it cost roughly $175,000 to get a K-12 education and then these graduates are not always able to get a good job. Something is wrong,” Gramopadhye said. “We’re investing so much, we need to make sure they are prepared for the right, well-paying jobs.”

Gramopadhye said STEM education is the key to training a workforce prepared for the available jobs, both in South Carolina and nationally. The STEM-related jobs are abundant and better paying, he said.

Partnerships between higher education universities, technical colleges and the K-12 system could help integrate STEM subjects into schools from an earlier age, Gramopadhye said, a message touted by many economic developers, business owners and educators in the area.

As the manufacturing sector continues to expand in the Upstate, many companies struggle to find employees with the skilled, technical expertise required for the advanced manufacturing of the automotive sector, among others.

Local companies often invest in the training themselves or create apprenticeships in conjunction with technical colleges. Many entities are working to address the skilled worker challenges across the state.

The S.C. Technical College System offers 150 programs in industry-specific training and education at 16 colleges statewide. The colleges also work directly with industry partners to design specific training programs, such as Piedmont Technical College’s new training program with ZF Transmissions in Laurens County.

SC Works, Apprenticeship Carolina and readySC all play a major role in the recruitment, training and certification of a skilled and prepared workforce.

Gramopadhye points to the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development as one example of a successful training partnership, noting that he believes much of future education will be accomplished through e-learning.

Created in 2011 with a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the center is a collaboration among Clemson, Trident Technical College, Greenville Technical College and Florence-Darlington Technical College to provide virtual and distance learning for workers in the automotive and aviation fields.

Duke Energy announced last month a $4.11 million donation to the center to expand the online learning options for workforce-critical degree and certificate programs.

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

Subscribe to GSA Business to read the full coverage of the S.C. Automotive Summit in the Feb. 25 issue of GSA Business’ biweekly business journal.

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