Summit promotes collaboration between economic developers and regional workforce, education service partners

When economic developers are recruiting a business to the Lowcountry, part of their pitch is explaining how the business can find qualified workers and meet its local employment needs.

 To make that case, it helps to understand what education and workforce services are offered across the region, how they operate and who is running each program. The Lowcountry Council of Governments (LCOG) Workforce/Education & Economic Development Summit hosted on April 26 sought to deepen this understanding by bringing together representatives from workforce and educational services and the economic development community.

 “A lot of them did not know one another,” said Michael Butler, the Director of Workforce Development at LCOG and one of the Summit’s organizers. “We’re all providing workforce services, the educational piece, the economic development piece, but there’s no collaboration between the three as a whole.”

 At the event, economic developers shared what they do on a daily basis to recruit new businesses and support existing ones. Workforce and educational partners briefly presented their programs and how their services could align with economic development efforts.

 “From an industrial recruitment standpoint, not every project is a one-size fits all, so the ability to identify the various agencies available to assist and put names with those faces was invaluable,” said Brantley Strickland, Project Manager for Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance.

 The Summit’s 28 attendees included the Technical College of the Lowcountry, South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation, South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, South Carolina Department of Social Services, ReadySC, Adult Education, Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance, Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, South Carolina Department of Commerce, Colleton County Economic Alliance and LCOG.

 In addition to sharing information, participants at the Summit had an opportunity to network and practice presenting their services in the concise format preferred at business recruitment meetings. This was all designed to promote future collaboration between partners, Butler said.

 “The hope now is when those recruiting opportunities come, the economic developers feel comfortable enough saying, ‘Hey, let me call the folks from SC Vocational Rehabilitation services to sit in on our meeting, or let me call Adult Education. Or better yet, let me call Tony [Pollen] from the COG who is the centerpiece who could sit in for everybody and explain all the services,’” Butler said.

 Through its daily work assisting individuals and businesses from Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties, LCOG is uniquely positioned to connect partners from across the region to support economic development.

 “Recognizing the importance of workforce development for our existing industries, the Lowcountry COG has been strategic in successfully bringing together key stakeholders and local resources for the benefit of their companies,” said Dr. Cynthia Davis, Director of Existing Industries for the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

 Butler said he hopes to make the Workforce/Education & Economic Development Summit an annual event.