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Charleston Develops Workforce Pipeline for Industry

David Ginn
By David Ginn President and CEO, Charleston Regional Development Alliance

Global aerospace powerhouse Boeing selected North Charleston, SC, for its 787 Dreamliner final assembly and delivery line nearly a decade ago. Boeing’s footprint in the Charleston metro area has grown rapidly to include the exclusive 787-10 production, an IT Center for Excellence, an Engineering Design Center, a propulsion center, a paint facility, the Dreamlifter operation, and plenty of land for expansion.

But Boeing’s $1 billion investment and its impact as a driving force behind South Carolina’s $24.8 billion aerospace sector would not be possible without a powerful talent pipeline.

readySC, South Carolina’s customized workforce training program, offered at little or no cost to companies, has trained 3,000-plus people for Boeing. Local workforce development initiatives have been essential in building Boeing South Carolina’s labor force, now at 7,000 employees and rapidly expanding.

As a testament to this, during a recent visit from U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, Boeing South Carolina pledged to invest $100 million in workforce development as part of a national initiative to reduce the manufacturing skills gap.

As Charleston’s aerospace and auto manufacturing sectors grow, OEMs like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz Vans and their suppliers take advantage of the region’s workforce development resources. The region’s pool of skilled engineering and manufacturing talent was a key reason Volvo chose Charleston for its first American factory.

Automotive supplier Robert Bosch is among the 150-plus businesses supporting Trident Technical College’s Regional Youth Apprenticeships program. The program has graduated 177 apprentices to date since launching in 2014, while the adult apprenticeship program has produced thousands of skilled workers over the past 40 years. Trident Technical College is constructing an $80 million, 224,000 ft² (20,810 m²) aeronautics training center that will accommodate 5,370 students annually and support Boeing’s production of the 787 Dreamliner.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced earlier this year a pilot program in Charleston to pair local industry leaders with high school students and serve as a national model for reimagining the country’s engineering workforce pipeline.

Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner in front of South Carolina Factory.

Thanks to our region’s workforce strategy to realign education curricula and create career academies and apprenticeships, Charleston ranks fifth for prime workforce among large-size U.S. metros. Charleston’s population is growing, with 28 new residents moving to the region each day. A Charleston Metro Chamber study forecasts nearly 35,000 new jobs in the next five years.

In addition to workforce training assets, the Charleston region offers a competitive cost of doing business and global connections, including a just announced nonstop flight from Charleston to London on a Charleston-made 787.

South Carolina offers the lowest statewide manufacturing costs in the country, and the Port of Charleston provides connections to 150 countries. The Charleston metro is No. 1 in the U.S. for manufacturing job growth and has proven its expertise in advanced manufacturing. We invite you to come and see us.

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