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Workforce issues explored at forum

June 19, 2008

Edward E. Gordon, internationally recognized workforce consultant, told 90 educators, community and business leaders that South Carolina, like other parts of the country, has "reached the crisis level of employment" with a population ill prepared to take advantage of the highly technical jobs that will need to be filled in the future.

Gordon was the keynote speaker at the second annual Business-Education-Economic Development Forum, held June 18 at Coastal Carolina University.

"We need to create more talented people," said Gordon, the author of 16 books including "The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Impending Jobs Crisis," pointing out that half the population of the state reads below the eighth grade level. "That's why you need to reinvent the education-to-employment connection." He also urged for more diversification of the area's tourist-based economy.

Gordon exhorted the audience to hold town hall meetings "in neutral spaces" in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties to allow people to air their frustrations and start building a more educated and better paid workforce or else face disastrous consequences in the future. "It's a question of culture and civic participation, of mobilizing communities for change," Gordon said.

The forum also included a formal presentation on the "Needs Assessment and Gap Analysis Report," which was produced by Coastal Carolina University for the Waccamaw Regional Education Center. Coastal Carolina University Provost Robert Sheehan addressed a number of concerns identified in the report, including the need for improved public transportation, funding and resources, more Spanish speaking in schools, more interpreters and more job training. He added that the rural, low income segments of the population reported that bridging these gaps will be extremely challenging.

Recommended strategies that Sheehan outlined included: professional networking to spark students' interest in job possibilities; working harder at bridging high school students with higher education and technical college opportunities; increasing public awareness of local educational and career opportunities; more business and higher education involvement with each school district; increasing parental involvement; reducing the language barrier; and more community involvement.

The event was sponsored by Coastal Carolina University, the Spadoni College of Education and the Waccamaw Regional Education Center.