OPE summits demonstrate benefits of hiring veterans

Businesses learned about the benefits of hiring veterans at the first of three Operation Palmetto Employment (OPE) summits that are being held across the state.

Employers, hiring managers, veteran employment representatives and military service members attended the first summit, held in the Midlands on April 14, and received information and insight into recruiting and retaining military hires through OPE, South Carolina’s military employment initiative.

Launched by Gov. Nikki Haley as a statewide military employment initiative, OPE partners with various state agencies, educators, workforce development representatives and others to streamline and increase the efficiency of the employment process for South Carolina’s military community and reduce duplicated efforts of service providers.

“Through the collaborative work of its partner agencies and organizations, OPE is a tool that employers can use to access South Carolina’s military talent,” said Lieutenant Colonel David Gayle, representing the South Carolina Military Department and the South Carolina National Guard.

The OPE Midlands Summits include cabinet agency and military installation briefs, employer success stories, roundtable discussions and professional development sessions designed to further connect and inform private sector employers and hiring managers, employment service representatives and government officials on the true value of military hires. As a statewide partnership, OPE serves military job seekers and the employers who hire them — at no cost to either.

“South Carolina’s unemployment rate for veterans is 4.4 percent,” said Darrell Scott, Chief of Staff at the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. “This rate is below the national average of 4.9 percent, and below the state average of 5.5 percent.” Scott reported that more than 23,000 veterans received services in 2015, and more than 8,000 entered employment.”

OPE will host two more regional summits in May: the OPE Upstate Summit on Wednesday, May 4 at the Spartanburg Readiness Center at USC-Upstate, and the OPE Lowcountry Summit on Thursday, May 26 at Verizon Solutions Center in North Charleston. Seating is limited for both events; advance registration is required via Eventbrite.com.

Click here to watch a feature by reporter Sonia Gutierrez of WLTX-News 19 in Columbia.

To learn more about Operation Palmetto Employment and connect with OPE representatives in your area, email OperationPalmettoEmployment@gmail.com or call 803-299-4019.

JAG students find career development more to do with development than career


A coach encourages a CHS athlete during a track and field event.

A group of Jobs for America’s Graduate (JAG) students in Clinton High School is carrying on a tradition of “everyone belongs” in a special way — literally.

As part of the JAG career-development program coordinated by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, a friendship class was added to the curriculum five years ago to give CHS students an opportunity to “look for things that need to be changed,” according to their teacher, Nancy Wood. The JAG students at the Clinton, S.C. high school decided they wanted everyone to belong.

This year’s JAG class at CHS created one of their opportunities for success and growth in the cafeteria. When they noticed a group of Special Education students who regularly sat together at their own table, the JAG kids decided to find out more about them and get to know them. So, the students went to their JAG specialist and talked about how they could help create more opportunities for the Special Education students to be part of the traditional school life.

The two groups began to sit with each other at lunch, and twice a week the JAG students would act as peer mentors for their new friends during a common class period. As the relationships grew, the JAG group discovered that the Special Education students were preparing for the Special Olympics. From there, it was no longer about working to include a group of students in school life; it was all about athletic training. And it was this mission that led to the deeper connection of the kids.

Twice a week, and with Coach Anson Cunningham’s help, six student coaches and six student athletes got together during a free class period to train. They worked together as a group on stretching and strengthening, and they worked in pairs to refine the athletes’ sports of track and the softball throw.

On March 18, their training was put to the test at the Special Olympics Area 5 Spring Games. This group of friends traveled to Presbyterian College Stadium, six competed, six to coached and volunteered, and all to support each other.

The student coaches are Zion Anderson, Monisha Cheeks, Jordan Jackson, Monique Kennedy, Derricki Light and Whitney Swindler.

The national JAG programs focuses on job preparation activities such as identifying interests and skills, testing workplace competencies, and academic-success coaching. Administered in South Carolina by DEW, the JAG program prepares South Carolina’s youth to be “College and Career Ready.” Student, parents, teachers and communities work together to create new opportunities for success in school and on the job.

Here is how local businesses can get involved in JAG:

  • Speak in a classroom – represent your business or field of expertise.
  • Provide a job shadow or internship opportunity in your workplace.
  • Volunteer at a student event to facilitate workshops, run leadership activities, or be a competitive event judge at the annual Career Development Conference.
  • Spread the word about JAG to your friends, coworkers and business affiliates
  • Take a personal stake in the success of South Carolina’s students by making a financial donation to ensure that the programs and services continue into the future.


SC’s January Unemployment Situation

Employment Growth Continues, Unemployment Rate Remains Unchanged

South Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in January remained unchanged at 5.5 percent from December 2015. However, the number of people working increased by 10,853, setting a new record of 2,149,850.

The state’s labor force increased by 11,070 to 2,274,500 people. Unemployment rose slightly by 217 people from December to January, bringing the number of unemployed to 124,650.

Since January 2015, employment gains totaled 50,114, and the level of the unemployed decreased by 22,128 people. Also over the past year, the labor force has grown by 27,986.

Nationally, January’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent.

Read the full report employment here.


Business service teams help find qualified employees

McLeod Health, one of the Pee Dee’s largest employers, recently needed to fill several entry level positions in its Pee Dee facilities.

The health service provider, which serves more than one million residents in the Northeast region of South Carolina and Southeast region of North Carolina, teamed up with the Pee Dee Local Workforce Development Area (LWDA) to recruit, screen and refer eligible applicants to fill those positions.

The Pee Dee LWDA Business Services Team got to work identifying the skills and skill level requirements of the available positions and to ensure that the best quality referrals are made. They piloted the WorkKeys’ profiling of four entry level positions, Medical Service Technician, Environmental Services Technician, Nutrition Services Associate 3 and Certified Medical Assistant.

After several months of planning and establishing protocols, the team began referring job seekers in December 2015 and as of Feb. 1, 2016, approximately 50 referrals have been made and at least 7 individuals have been hired.

The LWDA provides candidate screening and matching services to help identify qualified candidates. It also offers assessments of potential job applicants to help ensure they possess the skills to do the job.

Assessments such as WorkKeys measure basic skills as well as a candidate’s communication, problem solving and interpersonal skills. There is also the WorkKeys job profiling assessment that helps businesses understand the skills required for specific positions.

Click here to find an LWDA near you.

Mullet Door opens opportunities with On-the-Job Training program

When Jeff Davis, manager of Mullet Door in Abbeville, heard about the On-the-Job Training program available through SCWorks, he was interested. The problem was he didn’t have an opening.

A few months later, however, Davis called Upper Savannah Business Services Representative, Willie Forrest, telling him that he had an available position and wanted to use the OJT program at the Abbeville facility. Within days, Davis received several resumes from Forrest and eventually hired a candidate who had recently been dislocated from another job.

About a month later, another hiring need arose. Once again, Davis used the OJT program and hired an out-of-school youth for the job. Throughout the course of several months, Davis hired a total of four people in through the OJT program.

OJT is a federal program funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that lets a business hire and train skilled workers and then reimburses them for the cost of training workers who have the ability to do the job but lack the practical hands-on experience.

Employers benefit from more efficient recruiting, more targeted training and assistance with training expenses. Other benefits include:

  • OJT specialists help find the right talent when you need it, reducing time, effort, and money spent on recruiting.
  • OJT helps train the right workers to meet the businesses requirements.
  • Businesses receive between 50% and 75% of the costs to provide on-the-job training for individuals hired (reimbursement depends on the size of the business).

Those employees eligible for this program include youth, the unemployed or underemployed, laid-off workers and homemakers re-entering the workforce.

Davis said that the productivity of the people who have gone through this program is better than those who is now a champion for the program and is encouraging other businesses in his Abbeville area to participate in OJT as well. This has resulted in OJT placements at several other businesses.

Sector Strategies aims to fill the workforce pipeline

In the coming months, you will be hearing quite a bit about building a workforce pipeline through Sector Strategies.

But this is not “just another program,” says Cheryl Stanton, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Sector StrategiesWhat it is, however, is a regional, industry-focused approach to building a skilled workforce pipeline through regional collaboration between industry, education and government. Sector Strategies is proving to be one of the most effective ways to address the talent needs of employers.

This initiative is slated to be rolled out around mid-April, but the roll out is only the beginning, said Stanton, during the Workforce Development Symposium held recently in Columbia.

The goal is to build regional talent pipelines in critical industries to address workers’ skill shortages and to create career pathways for workers in specific industry sectors. All industry across the state will benefit from this effort.

This is happening through the analysis of data and on-the-ground intelligence to drive career pathways and talent pipeline development strategies. This allows for customized solutions by economic region rather than a cookie-cutter approach for all.

In order to have world-class Sector Strategies, there must be a shared vision in each region, it must be guided by industry that validates competency needs and partners in the programs’ designs, and it must lead to strategic alignment, which allows students and workers to move seamlessly between academic and career technical programs, to and from work, and to advanced credentials.

As part of this plan, the state has been divided into four regions. They are Upstate, including Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Edgefield, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg and Union counties; Central, including Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster, Lexington, Orangeburg and Richland counties; Pee Dee, including Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Sumter and Williamsburg counties; and South Coast, including Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester Hampton and Jasper counties.

The plan has also identified five critical industries in the state. They are diversified manufacturing, which includes metal and metal fabrication, textiles, lumber and wood products and chemicals, rubber and plastics; business information technology services; health care; transportation, logistics and wholesale trade; and construction.

“The end result of the intentional and thoughtful process of Sector Strategies and data-driven planning is where all business in South Carolina benefit – and that is the end of the pipeline,” Stanton said. “By matching individuals’ strengths and life stage with the demands of South Carolina’s industries, businesses can continue to find the employees they need in order to grow and compete.”

What to do if a former employee files for unemployment

When a former employee files for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, you have the opportunity to supply information to the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) regarding the reason the individual is now unemployed.

However, you must respond to DEW within 10 calendar days of receiving notification that a former employee has filed for unemployment in order to prevent him or her from wrongfully receiving UI benefits.

If the department does not receive a response, DEW assumes the individual is unemployed through no fault of their own. An employer that fails to respond to a separation request may experience increased benefit charges and higher unemployment insurance taxes.

There are three ways you can respond to a separation request: the South Carolina Business One Stop (SCBOS), the State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES) or by mail.

If a complete response requires supporting documentation such as copies of warnings, violated company policy or a letter of resignation, attach the supporting documents to your response. If you are filing online and are unable to attach files via email, simply mail or fax your attachments to the address or number listed on the form.

  • Responding through SCBOS If you are registered online with the South Carolina Business One Stop (SCBOS), you will receive the Requests for Separation Information Form (NET-101) by email. Simply click reply, fill out the form and press send.
  • Responding through SIDES If you do not have an account with SCBOS or you usually submit information by mail, you can use a free secure electronic system called the State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES) E-Response. This application allows you to respond to information requests, attach documentation and receive a date-stamped confirmation receipt.

Since SIDES E-Response is a nationally standardized format, you can communicate with multiple states in which you do business.

Register for SIDES E-Response in South Carolina here. Once your account has been activated, you can access SIDES E-Response here. If you have questions, you can access the user guide or contact DEW at UI-email-ER-Registration-DL@dew.sc.gov.

  • Responding by mail If you are not registered with SCBOS or SIDES, you will receive a Request for Separation Information Form by mail. Submit the completed form within 10 calendar days and return it to the address of the local SC Works center printed on the form.

After DEW investigates the claim, it issues a written determination detailing its ruling on the claimant’s eligibility and on any point of law considered. If you disagree with the decision, you do have the right to appeal. Each determination letter contains detailed appeal rights and information. For more information regarding the appeals process, click here.


Take Advantage of New Hire Tax Credit

Businesses could be eligible for a tax credit when a new employee is hired.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program is federally funded program that could reduce your federal income tax liability when you hire unemployed veterans or individuals with documented barriers to employment.

Administered by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW), the WOTC will provide businesses with a 40 percent tax credit on eligible employees’ first year of wages after they have worked 400 hours. Qualifying wage caps do apply.

There is no limit on the number of qualified new hires businesses can claim. The organization can receive a $2,400 to $9,600 credit for each eligible employees.

To take advantage of the program, simply complete and file the required paperwork. It either can be filed electronically or via the mail. However, requests must be postmarked or e-filed within 28 days of the employee’s start date. Forms can be found here.

Take advantage of the WOTC program, and increase your return on investment while helping targeted employees become self-sufficient and earn a steady income.

You can benefit from hiring within the following groups:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipient.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.
  • Columbia/Sumter Empowerment Zone / Marlboro County Rural Renewal Community residents.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation or Ticket-to-Work Participants.
  • Recently released ex-felons.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.
  • Disabled veterans who within in the last year were discharged or unemployed for more than six months.
  • Disabled veterans who within in the last year were discharged or unemployed for more than six months.
  • Unemployed veterans.
  • Veterans receiving SNAP.

For more information, contact S.C. WOTC Coordinator Laura Rushton at 803-737-2592 or laura.rushton@dew.sc.gov.

Pilot program helping the homeless find jobs

In December, DEW and Transitions, a Columbia-based organization that transitions people from homelessness into permanent housing, completed a pilot program to assist those who are homeless develop skills needed to land a job.

About 55 people started the six-week Back to Work program in October and 19 finished it. Another four people were offered jobs before the program ended. Of those 19, nine have found work, and the others are being assisted one on one by DEW staff with finding jobs and with development of soft skills that are needed for them to be successful on the job.

Craig Curry, Transition’s CEO, said a lot of the people he sees coming through Transitions have been “lost in the shuffle” and didn’t get the attention they needed earlier in life.

The Rev. Robert Walker, pastor of Main Street United Methodist Church, offered classroom for the program. The program was led by Patrick Thomas, DEW’s regional manager of the Midlands, and his staff.

The Back to Work program teaches participants practical skills, and it includes training for enhancing self-esteem and motivational skills. Lasting six weeks, the program begins with a “boot camp” designed to implement immediate positive change.

Session Highlights Include:

  • Assessment of skills, abilities and work potential as well as job coach assignments.
  • Resume templates to be sequentially completed section-by-section over the course of the program.
  • Basic or advanced computer skills course or depending on skill level.
  • Navigating employment websites and review of resources needed for employment, such as references and interview clothing.
  • Expectations, social skills and behavioral styles for the job search process as well as employment.
  • Exploration of careers and job types, as well as discussion of realistic expectations for employment.
  • Overview of Federal Bonding Program.

The program was capped with a graduation ceremony and a hiring event.

Curry said he was excited to have the hiring event following the program and feels that is the main reason people stuck with the program for the entire six weeks.

“If only a handful of people get jobs, this program will be a success,” Curry said.

SC building a Work Ready workforce


South Carolina is striving to be the first state in the nation to certify all of its counties as Work Ready.

Recently two more counties, Charleston and Lancaster, have received certification bringing the number of certified counties to 41. Counties received certification through the South Carolina Work Ready Communities (SCWRC) initiative by meeting specified workforce and education goals.

This initiative has helped attract international business development by providing a robust workforce pipeline. Employers connect to a skilled workforce which them hire the right people for their jobs by drawing candidates from a pool of qualified applicants.

“The Work Ready initiative is providing employers with a skilled workforce, which is driving the state’s employment number where, in August, we saw more people working than any time in the our state’s history. Companies are deciding that South Carolina is a great place to do business,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, Executive Director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Individuals receive a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) that documents potential employees’ skills showing they have the fundamental skills needed to succeed. Businesses can recommend or prefer that individuals have an NCRC. The South Carolina Work Ready Community initiative provides a framework to strengthen economic development using a community-based approach, grounded in certifying counties as work ready.

A business interested in supporting the Work Ready effort, it can become a S.C. Certified Work Ready Community Business Champion by:

  • Profiling key jobs (job profiling is a job analysis system that identifies the exact skill levels required for success in a given position).
  • Using job profiles and the NCRC as part of your hiring and training process.
  • Sharing with others how your company is benefiting from participating.

A map of South Carolina’s 41 certified counties is available here.

For additional information, visit www.scworkready.org.