Study sees future shortfall of college-educated in SC

This release just in:

Study Highlights Major Expected Shortfall in

South Carolina’s Future College-Educated Workforce 

— USC Economists Find S.C. Will Need Many More College-Educated Workers

by 2030 Than It Is On Pace to Provide —

Columbia, SC – March 6, 2013 – South Carolina is facing a major shortfall of skilled, college-educated workers by the year 2030 to fuel its economic growth, according to a major new study prepared by two University of South Carolina professors. The study projects that at current rates, the state will have a shortfall of more than 100,000 graduating students with the necessary post-high school education to be hired.  To put things in perspective, that shortfall is greater than the seating capacity of either Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia or Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

The study was conducted by Dr. Doug Woodward and Dr. Joey Von Nessen, top research economists in the Darla Moore School of Business. The study will guide the efforts of the Competing Through Knowledge initiative, a group of civic and business leaders seeking to enhance the state’s workforce preparedness through improved higher education.

Based on economic and demographic trends, Woodward and Von Nessen project that by 2030 South Carolina will have a shortfall of 44,010 workers holding two-year degrees and 70,540 workers who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher. This major projected deficit – if not addressed – could cast a shadow over South Carolina’s future, as the USC study notes: “The percentage of the population with a college degree is the single best predictor of a state’s national ranking in personal per capita income levels.”

“This report has to be taken as a call to action,” said Jim Morton, a retired senior executive from both the Michelin and Nissan companies and one of the civic leaders spearheading the Competing Through Knowledge effort. “If South Carolina is going to thrive as we all wish, meeting the educational needs of our growing economy has to be a top priority. Our state needs a comprehensive plan.”

The state’s need for skilled, college-educated workers by 2030 will double or almost double across the three levels of higher education cited in the report: jobs needing some post-high school work, those requiring a two-year degree or those requiring a four-year degree. This outlines a major challenge for the state’s technical colleges as well as four-year colleges and research universities.

The report also identifies several fields as likely to generate the greatest mismatches between what higher education is set to provide and what is needed, most notably the field of nursing. Nearly 40 percent of the shortfall projected in the S.C. workforce is expected in nursing; that is more than 17,000 openings for those with at least an associate’s degree in excess of what our colleges are expected to produce. Other fields that are projected to need thousands more workers than are projected include general and operations managers, schoolteachers and accountants, among others.

In the report’s conclusion, Woodward and Von Nessen write: “For South Carolina to create opportunities for its citizens to have access to good jobs and higher wages, it must create a workforce that is equipped with the skillsets that are in demand in the labor market.”

To help meet that challenge, the S.C. Business Leaders Higher Education Council launched the Competing Through Knowledge initiative. In the coming months, Competing Through Knowledge will be looking at South Carolina’s higher education system and current and future workforce needs. The group, featuring leaders from across the state and many different fields of expertise, will recommend specific on-the-ground changes in how South Carolinians are being educated.

Other states have brought a similar focus to making sure that they are doing all they can to prepare their workforce. In 2009, Virginia launched its Grow by Degrees plan, which resulted in several new initiatives to improve higher education being implemented there.

Former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, a Competing Through Knowledge board member, said, “The Competing Through Knowledge project is about bringing business and higher education leaders to the table to identify the jobs of the future and create a strategy to make certain that South Carolina workers have the skills necessary to satisfy those jobs.”

The USC study can be accessed by following this link:

About Competing Through Knowledge

Competing Through Knowledge is an effort driven by business leaders to make South Carolina’s working citizens ready for the emerging economy and the state more globally competitive by 2030. It will work with higher education to assess how South Carolina, at the two-year and four-year levels, is preparing its workforce for the future. The goal is to invigorate South Carolina with the knowledge required to attract and sustain more advanced economic activity while preparing more of its citizens for broader opportunities, through the growth of better-paying industries and entrepreneurship. Learn more at

Do you find that a little hard to believe? Maybe it’s because my office is only about a block from the USC campus, and I often feel like I’m trying to move through an ocean of college students.

Yeah, I already knew that we weren’t churning out enough nurses. As for the rest — I see that we’re expected to fall short in “general and operations managers, schoolteachers and accountants, among others.” Except for the teachers, that sounds kind of like the folks who would have been placed on the B Ark from Golgafrincham

Hey, it’s a joke, you general and operations managers! Can’t you take a joke?


Aboard the B Ark from Golgafrincham, with Arthur Dent…

10 thoughts on “Study sees future shortfall of college-educated in SC

  1. Doug Ross

    It’s too bad South Carolina refuses to embrace vocational high school education which would be able to put students on a track to enter fields like nursing, accounting, etc.

    Here’s a link to my high school in Massachusetts (a state that has been on the leading edge of vocational high school education since the early 70’s). As an example of what is available in the Health Technologies program:

    Students are well prepared for several certification exams including the American Red Cross Nursing Assistant Exam.

    The curriculum includes related theory classes including:
    Healthcare Exploration
    Healthcare Foundations
    Nurse Assistant
    Medical Assistant
    Electrocardiogram Technicain
    Growth and Development
    Dean Vaughn Medical Terminology

    Students from our program may graduate with the following certifications:

    American Red Cross Certified Nursing Assistant/Home Health Aide
    Department of Public Health Paid feeder certification
    Caring for People with Alzheimer’s Disease: A Habilitation Training
    American Heart Association CPR for the Healthcare Provider with Automated External Defibrillator
    American Heart Association First Aid Certification
    National Healthcareer Association Electrocardiogram Technician certification
    National Healthcareer Association Certified Medical Administrative Assistant
    American Red Cross Babysitting training
    NIOSH Youth @ Work training

    These programs are FAR more useful to communities than producing cookie cutter high school graduates.

    1. Silence

      My 12-year old neighbor has that Red Cross Babysitting certification. I had Red Cross CPR & First Aid when I was 14, I assume they are similar to the AHA certs. The CPR & First Aid certs, when combined with the Lifeguarding cert qualified me for a $4.50/hour job, which was hardly a career track. It was a lot of fun though. Lifeguards pull a lot of tail.

      1. Doug Ross

        “Lifeguards pull a lot of tail.”

        I’m assuming that is a technical term for when you throw the life preserver into the water and pull in the rope?

  2. Bart

    It is true SC needs to invest more in education but until the parents, no matter what their race, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation may be, are actively involved in their children’s education both at school and most important, at home, this state will continue to stagnate and there will be no progress to insure a good future for generations to come. Money spent without an urgency instilled in the parents and students to take advantage of a good education will be wasted. South Carolina can offer a lot to prospective business to locate here but if the educational level of the residents continues to decline, the future for most will be low paying, low skilled job opportunities and the professional jobs will go to outsiders, not native residents.

  3. Juan Caruso

    A core assumption of the study is this forecast:

    “Over the next 17 years (2013 2030), there will be approximately 553,884 new jobs created in South Carolina; that is, jobs that result directly from economic growth and expansion. 52 percent of these new jobs will require higher education.

    The five occupation groups requiring higher education that are projected to have the highest workforce shortages in 2030 are: (1) Healthcare Practitioners; (2) Management; (3) Education; (4) Business and Financial Operations; and (5) Computers and Mathematics. Together, these occupation groups will represent over 78 percent of the higher education workforce shortage in 2030.”

    Those jumping to a conclusion that state and local governments must be allowed to build new classrooms are neglecting (because it is so far just politically incorrect) the inevitable impact of accredited online learning, particularly applicable to the 78% (groups cited by the preceeding paragraph)..

    Moreover, no level of government can lead the learning revolution like private institutions of higher learning.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Education is all over by fifth grade for most. They are either tracking up or down by then. Where support for schools (by parents, government and society) matters most is in the elementary years. That’s where the change has to occur; it’s too late by the time kids reach secondary schools, let alone go on to higher education to expect generational change.

      Everything in life is about focusing on one simple dictum: Crawl, walk, run. In that order. There are few shortcuts in life – though there can be lucky, and unlucky, breaks.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Not too long ago–maybe in the last five years, experts were saying we had a glut of four-year degrees and a severe shortage of two-year degree graduates.
    I totally agree with Doug that we need to up our vocational training in high schools. Too many kids who learn best in that environment are forced to try to learn advanced mathematics and the like. Kids who would make excellent tradespeople if trained. You can’t move skilled construction jobs or skilled health-care jobs overseas.

    1. Doug Ross

      And moving the kids with different aptitudes into a vocational track would allow teachers in the more advanced Math, Science, and English classes to work with a group of students who are better suited to the work.


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