By Lonnie Adamson
EASLEY — Area economic development officials are taking steps to quantify workforce abilities as a tool for attracting new industry.
The new program is called WorkReady, and state officials are working on funding options to make it available statewide. The statewide endeavor began with interest from Pickens, Oconee and Anderson economic developers.
Ray Farley, economic development director, for Pickens County laid out the ideas for the effort Thursday to the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce.
“For years we have been asked, ‘Do you have a good workforce?’ We have said, ‘Yea, we have a good workforce.’ Now we’ll be able to say ‘Yes, and here they are,’ ” Farley said.
The objective will be to roll out a catalog of potential workers with a ranking of their abilities on a standard scale. Farley and other economic development specialists think WorkReady status will give counties like Pickens a recruitment advantage.
Quality of workforce is a frequent question where ever he goes recruiting for economic development. “I was in Germany, recruiting not long ago and it came up there,” said Farley. “It is not just here. It is something that everybody is dealing with.” he said.
Manufacturers are looking mechanical ability and analytical capabilities, he said. “They are also looking for good ‘soft skills.’ If you are supposed to be at work at 8 o’clock, you should be there at 8 o’clock,” he said.
Brian Swords, chairman of the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce, ran across the idea when he heard about a Georgia town that got a 1,000 manufacturing jobs. The manufacturer came to Dublin, Ga. because Georgia is a WorkReady state and had quantifiable information about its work force.
“They came to town several days just to look around before saying anything to anybody. They knew they wanted to be there,” Swords. WorkReady gave them added evidence to support a decision to spend millions of dollars on the facility.
Swords was on a team that took that information to SC Gov. Nikki Haley. That meeting with the governor has led to legislative efforts to fund testing and production of documentation of workers available.
Tri-County Technical College is in a key role in economic development in the region because of it’s ability to train individuals for recruited firms. The school is expected to be a center for testing workers for WorkReady status. One Stop employment centers and, potentially, Pickens County Schools will be centers for testing that will develop the labor force plan.