Added bus service providing employment, education opportunities

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.

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About DEW

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.

DEW launches Back to Work program in Greenville

The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) has expanded its Back to Work program into Greenville.

back to workCurrently, eight people are in the new program. DEW has partnered with Serenity Place, a residential treatment facility for pregnant women, young mothers and their preschool age children.

Back to Work is a five-week, bootcamp-style program intended to help individuals develop skills in interviewing, resume writing, conflict resolution and more. Each person is assigned a job coach who mentors them with the goal of obtaining employment and self-sufficiency. At the end of the program, a job fair is held with employers actively seeking to fill openings.

DEW piloted this program in Columbia by partnering with Transitions, a Columbia-area homeless facility that helps people transition into permanent housing, to assist people who are homeless transition back into the workforce. Since it was launched a year ago, 75 people have graduated from the program and 52, or nearly 70 percent, are employed.

The Greenville Bank to Work program’s graduation is set for June 23.

Use data to help with your employment decisions

Labor Market Information (LMI) is crucially important for employers to make informed decisions about their businesses in regards to employment. Many employers have discovered the value in assessing the data in their region when it comes to hiring talent.

On the state’s Labor Market Information site you will find a wide range of information about demographics, industry, occupation, wages, education profiles and education/training data.

Business consultants at the SC Works Centers statewide can assist with the gathering of specific data from LMI and provide that information to your business. Often time’s businesses seek out this information to evaluate the education and training of the current workforce, as well as a basic industry standard of wages and demographics of a specific area.

The data provided from LMI can be used to target a specific area and is useful for businesses as well as job seekers to know the training and education requirements in that region. Beyond being used by employers and job seekers, community decision makers use this data when researching the workforce potential in their area, and make data based decisions on their economic development.

Endless benefits can be found using LMI data for your business, your local Workforce Center can help you navigate this data as well as help you identify which data sets are most useful in your line of work.

To find out more about LMI services, please visit scworks.org to find the workforce center near you.

Board aims to inform businesses of services, resources

One of the priorities of the State Workforce Development Board (SWDB) is to make sure businesses understand the workforce services and resources available throughout the state. In particular, the role of the SC Works centers as well as that of DEW have been known for unemployment benefits when individuals are out of work; however, there is a significant investment by these agencies to leverage skills training, soft skills, career pathways and more, all in an effort to support the needs of South Carolina industry.

In order to educate businesses and encourage them to take full advantage of the programs available, a business engagement group was created with the collaboration of the Local Workforce Development Boards. Last year, the group exceeded their goal of reaching 10,000 businesses. This year the group is focusing on continuing outreach while digging deeper with current relationships to elaborate on services specific to a company’s needs.

Some examples of programs created to connect individuals with quality employment as well as establish a talent pipeline where businesses can find a workforce with skills specific to their industry, include:

On the Job Training

Incumbent Worker Training

WorkKeys® Assessments

Apprenticeships

Rapid Response

Employee Search Assistance

Connecting businesses with other agencies based on an assessment of workforce needs

One program that is particularly helpful to businesses and that the board is funding this year is job profiling. Job profiles are available through the S.C. Work Ready Communities initiative. This customized measurement tool identifies skills and skill levels needed to perform a job in your company. The skill level is then matched with a WorkKeys® test score. By profiling your jobs, you can feel confident using WorkKeys® tests to make your selection, training and advancement decisions.

To meet with a member of the business engagement group and learn more about the resources available, visit our website at https://dew.sc.gov/about-dew/locations to call your local SC Works center and ask to speak with a business consultant.

 

 

Save the date for the Workforce Development Symposium

Mark your calendar to attend the 2017 Workforce Development Symposium on February 18-19 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

The event is hosted by the State Workforce Development Board, S.C. Chamber of Commerce and the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Learn from other businesses about successful apprenticeships, hiring practices in a tight labor market and about other programs available through the Department of Employment and Workforce that will help fill key positions.

More information will be available soon.

SWDB delivers workforce solutions

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the State Workforce Development Board (SWDB) newsletter. This monthly publication will provide you with information regarding the work being done to create and promote a ready and skilled workforce. The board, chaired by Mikee Johnson CEO of Cox Industries, provides direction to the state’s workforce system on issues pertaining to labor force development, particularly those concerning the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

The mission of SWDB is to create a competitive workforce advantage for South Carolina by ensuring that a quality and effective workforce system exists in order to improve the prosperity of businesses and the lives of South Carolinians.

The board is comprised of a majority of business leaders. Other members include legislators of the South Carolina Senate and House, local elected officials, workforce partners and representatives of community-based organizations. Members of the board are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of Gov. Nikki Haley.

Two issues the board has initiated are the S.C. Talent Pipeline and SC Work Ready Communities project.

S.C. Talent Pipeline is the newest initiative where the state workforce system has partnered with the S.C. Department of Commerce, S.C. Department of Education and the S.C. Technical College System to provide a workforce supply chain for the state’s growing industries.

S.C. Talent Pipeline strategies take a comprehensive, broad-based approach to identifying and addressing skill needs across key industries within a region rather than focusing on the workforce needs of individual businesses on a case-by-case, transactional basis.

The local groups will be relying on businesses to provide input on job skills needed now and in the future.

The Work Ready Communities project has grown substantially as South Carolina has become the first state in the nation to have all of its counties certified as Work Ready. Under this program and the use of WorkKeys testing, employers can match jobseekers wit jobs based on their skill sets and individuals can identify careers that align with their results.

The certification allows the county to demonstrate to potential businesses that they can provide them with a skilled workforce.

The board is working on many other projects from apprenticeships to incumbent workers training all to support South Carolina businesses.

Unemployment Trust Fund to Reach Solvency in 2015; S.C. Businesses to Pay Less in Federal Unemployment Taxes

DEW is on track to have the state’s loan to the federal government for the unemployment trust fund paid off in summer 2015 thanks in part to making a record three payments last year.

In December, the agency paid $75 million bringing South Carolina’s loan balance to $195 million and saving the state potentially $1.7 million in interest.

“Making three early loan repayments in a single year is a great sign for our state and is another example of the kind of fiscally responsible government that our administration is committed to delivering,” Gov. Nikki Haley said when the payment was announced. “Ultimately, these payments are saving our businesses and taxpayers millions in interest, and are the direct result of the record breaking employment South Carolina continues to experience.”

When the 2014 unemployment tax rate was set, the federal government estimated 1,968,209 South Carolinians were employed. As of October 2014, 2,045,499 people were employed in the state, leading to additional tax collections.

In addition, South Carolina paid approximately $70.3 million less in unemployment benefits between November 2013 and October 2014 compared to the same time frame during the previous year.

“I am excited about this extra payment because it is an outcome of our state experiencing record highs in employment during the past year,” DEW Executive Director Cheryl M. Stanton said in December. “At the same time, we have seen a dramatic decrease in benefit payments, which shows our economy is continuing to improve.”

To date, South Carolina has repaid more than $780 million of the $977 million borrowed from the federal government.

For the fourth consecutive year, S.C. businesses will only pay the minimum 0.6 percent per employee for federal unemployment taxes because the Palmetto State once again met the requirements—including making voluntary loan payments— to obtain the maximum credit. Receiving this credit means S.C. businesses will save up to $140 per worker.

South Carolina is the only borrowing state to receive the full 5.4 percent credit.

 

 

South Carolina Outpaces Nation in Work Ready Certification Efforts

Nearly half of South Carolina’s counties are now certified as work ready, outpacing the nation in an initiative that showcases the highly skilled workforce that businesses require in a competitive economy.

Eighteen counties were recently recognized for achieving certification through the South Carolina Work Ready Communities (SCWRC) initiative. The counties are: Abbeville, Allendale, Anderson, Bamberg, Beaufort, Berkeley, Cherokee, Dorchester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Florence, Greenwood, Laurens, Marlboro, Newberry, Pickens, Sumter and Williamsburg.

Certified communitiesmapThe 18 newly certified counties have all met specified workforce and education goals, demonstrating to businesses a strong workforce and commitment to economic growth. The Palmetto State now has 22 counties with this designation, which is more than any other state in the nation.

“With almost half of our counties now certified, we are well on our way to becoming the first certified work ready state in the nation,” Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster said during a December ceremony recognized the newest Work Ready communities. “The next four years will be critical, focusing on economic development and these initiatives will help bring prosperity and growth to our state. This will show the rest of the country and world that South Carolina is ready and open for business.”

SCWRC provides a framework to strengthen economic development using a community-based approach grounded in certifying counties as work ready. To become a South Carolina Work Ready Community, each county has to reach or exceed goals in the following categories: National Career Readiness Certificates (WorkKeys® testing), graduation rates, soft-skills and business support.

“Counties of all sizes are catching on to the effectiveness of the Work Ready program and realizing that certification allows each area to market itself to new and existing businesses and ultimately results in more jobs for South Carolinians,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, executive director of the SC Department of Employment and Workforce.

McMasterCWRC

Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster talks about the importance of Certified Work Ready Communities during an event in December at the State House.

The latest work ready counties join the ranks of Clarendon, McCormick, Colleton and Saluda, which previously received the South Carolina Work Ready Community designation.

South Carolina was one of four pilot states selected to participate in the ACT Certified Work Ready Community program.

Find out how your business can take part in the initiative at scworkready.org.

 

 

 

DEW Proposes Regulations to Rebuild the UI Trust Fund and Clarify Suitable Work

DEW has submitted proposed regulations that will be reviewed by the General Assembly this session. One regulation relates to rebuilding the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund while the other relates to amending the definition of suitable work for UI claimants.

Trust Fund Rebuild

South Carolina is on track  to repay $977 million that was borrowed from the federal government for the UI Trust Fund before the end of 2015. The current outstanding balance on the loan is $195 million.

State law [South Carolina Code Section 41-31-45 (C)] states that “after the fund returns to solvency, the department must promulgate regulations concerning the income needed to pay benefits in each year and return the trust fund to an adequate level…”

Knowing that the Trust Fund is expected to be paid this year, DEW submitted a proposed regulation last year to rebuild the Trust Fund under the principle that South Carolina should never have to borrow money from the federal government again and that S.C. businesses want as much certainty and stability as possible when it comes to their unemployment taxes.

Proposed Rebuild regulation:

  • Uses a four-year rebuilding period based on the theory of a seven-year economic cycle and the desire to rebuild the fund during the good economic years.
  • Provides triggers to maintain stability for businesses in the event of an economic downturn and to avoid having to borrow money from the federal government again.
  • States that in the event that the balance of the UI Trust Fund at the end of the most recently completed fiscal year is greater than the fund adequacy target, DEW may use the surplus amount to reduce taxes in the following year.

The regulation was structured based on the current statute that was implemented to repay the loan. If the regulation is passed as written, no statutory changes would need to be made to rebuild the Trust Fund. View the regulation here.

Suitable Work

DEW is proposing to amend the suitable work regulation as a best practice recommendation from a third-party business process review. The proposed regulation is modeled after Georgia’s suitable work policy.

The regulation will provide guidance to UI claimants and the public on what DEW considers available suitable work in consideration of the claimant’s prior earnings and the length of unemployment.

Currently, claimants do not have a regulation or a statute to guide them in determining how the wage in an offer of work would be considered when determining whether the position is available suitable work and if their refusal to accept such work would be considered a disqualification. View the regulation here.

What’s  Next?

Both regulations were printed in the State Register on September 26, 2014 which opened up a public comment period on the regulations through November 12, 2014. There were not enough comments received to warrant a public hearing through the Administrative Law Court.

The regulations have been submitted to the General Assembly for review, and the General Assembly has 120 calendar days (during session) to review the regulations.

 

Unemployment Insurance Tax Update: Taxable Wage Base Changes in 2015

Unemployment Insurance taxes are charged on a certain amount of wages earned by each employee, and this is called the taxable wage base.

Per SC Code Ann. § 41-27-380, the taxable wage base increased to $14,000 in January 2015.

It had previously been $12,000. Once you have paid taxes on the first $14,000 of an individual’s wages, you do not owe any additional taxes for the remainder of the calendar year. However, you must continue to report wages earned by each individual. This is referred to as excess wages reported.

The $14,000 taxable wage base takes effect for taxes starting first quarter of 2015.

Remember, fourth quarter 2014 wage and contribution reports are due on January 31. You will use the $12,000 taxable wage base for this period.

If you have questions, please contact DEW’s Employer Tax Services Division at 803.737.3080 or uitax@dew.sc.gov.