Tonya Appel has already seen the effects the two new Horry County bus routes have had on her clients.
As the business development specialist for Vocational Rehabilitation in Horry and Georgetown counties, part of her job is to help clients find work. Since the new routes went into effect, some of the clients in the areas now being served have found employment, she said.
In June, the State Workforce Development Board awarded six $100,000 grants to local workforce areas around the state to help provide reliable transportation to people who don’t have it. The Worklink Workforce Development Area, which includes Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties, and the Waccamaw Workforce Development Area, which includes Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties, are two of the areas that have received a grant.
SWDB realizes that not having reliable transportation is a major barrier to employment and training opportunities for people wanting to work.
“Finding people a job is only half the battle. We also need to make sure that reliable transportation is available to take them to their job and training sites,” said Cheryl Stanton, DEW’s executive director. “That’s why we are thrilled to provide these grants, because providing transportation is key to ensuring workers can make it to their jobs and to helping businesses retain and grow their workforce.”
In the Waccamaw area, Coast RTA is using the money to help implement express routes from Bucksport and Loris to Conway. These routes have expanded access to employment and training opportunities in Horry County for approximately 3,000 Bucksport and Loris residents.
The key to the success Appel is seeing with her clients is the training that Coast RTA provided them about how to ride the bus when the new routes were launched, she said. The organization has now added the training to its Career Club program so all their clients learn how to ride.
After taking the class, one client said she was going to go to the beach and get a job at the hotel where her sister lives. And she did, Appel said.
During last week’s official unveiling of the routes, Brian Piascik, general manager of Coast RTA, said this pilot program will operate through at least February 2019, while he works on a plan to keep it running after that time.
The buses run three trips a day from Bucksport and Loris. He added that Bucksport and Loris riders can now access educational opportunities at Coastal Carolina University, Horry-Georgetown Technical College, Miller Motte and the SC Works Center, as well as to jobs in Conway and Myrtle Beach, he said. The buses started running on Aug. 14.
“These routes really open up a world for people to get training and find jobs,” Piascik said.
Brittain Resorts, which owns 10 resorts, five Starbuck stores and one restaurant, is a supporter of the expanded routes as it looks for workers. Melissa Bilka, director of Human Resources and Staff Development, said they have heard from people who would like to work at the beach but don’t because they have a hard time getting there.
So the company partnered with Coast RTA and now has started offering bus transportation for any of its employees who want to use it.
In the Worklink area, service is being provided to residents in far reaches of Anderson County – the towns of Honea Path and Belton.
“Grants like this allow the Worklink board to solve problems in our communities in innovative ways. The core purpose of the board is to strive to improve the workforce and the quality of life in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties by being the vehicle for workforce development,” said Mike Wallace, chairman of the Worklink Area Development Board.
“We all know the impact of providing good transportation options in area where they may have previously been limited to individuals. Good transportation allows people to look for new employment opportunities, retain their positions and gain access to education and training.”
The service will also provide people in other parts of Anderson County the ability to seek opportunities in parts of the community that would have previously been off limits due to the lack of transportation, he said.
Anderson County Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, said to have transportation will allow people to do the theings they need to do.
“Do you know what it must feel like to live out in our beautiful county but don’t have a car or a driver’s license? You are home bound. This opens the door to opportunities to all the people in our county, not to just some people,” she said.
The mayors of Belton and Honea Path said this will bring opportunities to the people of their towns.
“Some 12 years ago, I started working on this. Here we are in Honea Path, at tail end of the county, and we have people needing to go to the doctor, students who want to go to Tri-County Tech. This is a big step forward to get people to jobs and help the young people coming out of high school continue their education. If we get behind this thing, it will be a big success,” Honea Path Mayor Lollis Meyers said.
The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) is putting South Carolinians to work. The agency invests in building a pipeline of quality workers, matches workers with jobs, and is a bridge for individuals who find themselves out of work for no fault of their own. This promotes financial stability and economic prosperity for employers, individuals and communities. DEW is dedicated to advancing South Carolina through services that meet the needs of the state’s businesses, jobseekers and those looking to advance their careers.