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The Upstate’s younger workforce is interested in skilled trades; here’s why

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, interest in careers in skilled trades has increased tremendously among Generation Z and our future workforce.

Gone are the days when the traditional career path of graduating high school and then going on to college was the only option. More and more students are attending career-focused community colleges to delve into fields like building maintenance, vehicle maintenance and repair, electrical work, and more. The National Student Clearinghouse began tracking student enrollment in career-focused community colleges, and last year enrollment grew 16%, the highest increase since the organization began collecting data in 2018.

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As the owner of R&R Resolute Staffing here in the Upstate, I have personally witnessed the shift in mindset among our younger workforce. According to data from US News, the average tuition for a prestigious in-state college in 2023-2024 was just over $10,000. On top of that, there are other costs to consider, such as food, housing, and books, which can easily add up to thousands more per year. For some students just out of high school, that cost and the idea of ​​sitting in a classroom for four more years means that this just isn’t the right fit.

Greenville Technical College here in the Upstate is doing a great job of servicing this new workforce, offering classes in its Industrial, Manufacturing and Skilled Trades departments. They offer courses in machine operators, construction, electrical, manufacturing and more. Classes are held during the day and in the evenings, allowing students to work while completing their education.

In 2018, Greenville Tech introduced a four-year applied bachelor’s degree program to prepare manufacturing professionals for management positions, renewed emphasis on recognizing skilled labor as a viable career path for many.

More: Opinion: A degree in applied manufacturing offers many benefits to SC workers

Recently, we at R&R Resolute Staffing placed welders at a company in the Upstate. I was able to help them earn college credits while they attended a welder training program through Greenville Tech. This type of partnership means a lot to these people as it really helps some students survive and ultimately gain the skills and credits they need to continue their careers.

In recent years, the Upstate economy has experienced a boom, thanks largely to automotive manufacturing, electric vehicle battery manufacturing, aerospace, life sciences and more. Companies of all sizes are thriving or new companies are opening in our area. These jobs require skilled workers.

As the Upstate grows, one thing is clear: the need for skilled workers is greater than ever. Therefore, continuing to create skilled trades training opportunities is critical to our economic growth.

Rachel Touchet is the owner and CEO of R&R Resolute Staffing Firm.

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