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People at Florence meeting see need for larger skilled technical workforce

September 27, 2018
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Victor McCrary, a National Science Board member, opens the listening session by talking about common themes in the skilled technical workforce.

FLORENCE, S.C. – People attending a “listening session” in Florence on Wednesday said the nation needs a larger skilled technical workforce.

The session was hosted by the Florence-Darlington Technical College South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center to give the National Science Board some insight on the perceptions of the skilled technical workforce in the Pee Dee.

Victor McCrary, a member of the National Science Board, said a number of people in the listening session cited the need for more people.

“We do see that there is a shortage,” McCrary said.

McCrary said one takeaway from the listening session is that the NSB can work with guidance counselors and associations to better inform students of their options in the skilled technical workforce. McCrary said it is important for students to be made well aware of their options in the workforce before leaving high school, which can help contribute to the skilled technical workforce.

The event provided the NSB with information it could take directly take to the Congress and the president, McCrary said.

“We really want to go to different regions and find out what their take is on the skilled technical workforce,” McCrary said.

McCrary said the feedback from the listening sessions will be important to help set national priorities.

According to Rick Roberts, managing director of the South Carolina Advanced Technological Center, more than 25 organizations from educational institutions and private industries attended the listening session. Private industries such as Sunoco, Georgia Pacific and Bosch attended the event, as well as representatives from Clemson University, University of South Carolina and Francis Marion University.

During the listening session, members of various industries and organizations in the community sat 8-12 per table. A member of the NSB sat at each table with the community members facilitating conversation.

The NSB and community members discussed themes evident across the country in the skilled technical workforce, such as skill gaps, lack of services, gender diversity and human resource practices.

This was the fourth NSB listening session. The NSB held previous sessions in Baton Rouge, La., Warren, Mich., and Alexandria, Va.

McCrary said the NSB held listening sessions in regions with differing industries, such as Michigan for the automotive industry and Louisiana for the oil industry. In this region, there is a large industry for manufacturing, McCrary said.

Roberts said he thought there was a good turnout for the listening session and the event provided good feedback for the NSB.

“My hope would be that the advice and advising the NSB would do to Congress and the president would push down funds to NSF, continue to fund programs through NSF and expand some of those opportunities,” he said.

Roberts said the NSB selected the SCATE Center in the Pee Dee region because of the growth in industry in this area.

“I think that we should be proud of the fact that they chose the Pee Dee region and Florence-Darlington Technical College,” Roberts said. “It shows that we are on the national radar.”

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