January 19, 2022
Looking for Top-Notch Talent with Technical Skills?
It’s a national problem that often requires hyperlocal solutions: Feeding the hiring beast and planning for long-term workforce development while still doing the business of running a business. This national workforce crisis doesn’t discriminate. It’s affecting businesses large and small in all industries in nearly every city in America.
Greenville entrepreneur James Jordon, owner of Jordon Construction Company, appeared in a 60 Minutes segment called “The Big Quit” about another troubling nationwide workforce trend. Jordon and other business owners in his industry are fighting to fill a staggering 350,000 open jobs, but Jordon is a persistent man. He admitted on national television that he called his most recent hire every single day for two months to convince him to join the JCC team.
How can employers sustain the kind of Herculean effort sometimes required to fill one opening and manage the essential tasks of running a business? Brilliant minds are working on a solution on the national level, but here in Greenville folks are banding together to support founders like James Jordon.
LAUNCHING CAREERS AND BUILDING A PIPELINE
LaunchGVL is a collaboration between the Greenville Chamber of Commerce and Greenville County Schools. The goal is to provide paid internships for high school students and build a stronger workforce pipeline between education and industry. Jordon is a grad of the Chamber’s successful Minority Business Accelerator program and stays plugged into Chamber initiatives.
Jordon plans to participate in LaunchGVL to help identify potential future employees with in-demand skills, but that’s just his business motivation. Personally, it’s about something deeper. Jordon says he wants to make an impact in the community. It’s incredibly meaningful to him to show young African Americans that “someone who looks like them” can build a successful business—one that has doubled its revenue during a time when others are seriously struggling.
Jordon hopes to find an intern in February when other employers like Cecily Witcher gather to interview students in a LaunchGVL Interview Day.
INTERNSHIP TAKES FLIGHT
“Cee-Cee” is a member of the Greenville Chamber and a graduate of the Village Launch Business Entrepreneur Academy. She hired three high school students for eight-week paid internships in the fall. It’s worked out so well for her company, Traveling Butterflies, that two of the three interns are still working there, and the owner plans to hire at least one more intern in February.
Cee-Cee says she’s benefited in many ways from the passionate young artists she’s taken under her wing. The students have helped her with production, photography, and her Etsy shop. The artistic entrepreneur hopes her interns will even up her social media game. Engaging with potential customers is often an “extra” that small business owners don’t have time to tackle, and it’s something a lot of teenagers really enjoy.
Cheryl Garrison, the Chamber’s director of talent and workforce solutions, says “Cee-Cee” is the ideal business partner for LaunchGVL, because she goes above and beyond simply providing a place for students to work.
She pours so much into the students who work for her, Garrison said. As a small business owner, Cee-Cee learned from the Village Launch program that a good mentor can have a huge impact on the people they help by sharing real world experiences they don’t get in a classroom. These days, Cee-Cee happens to be an inspiring “Career Myth Buster,” showing students it’s possible to earn a living following their creative passion. While setting up her internship program in the fall, she exclaimed, “I may be an artist, but I’m by no means starving!”
Traveling Butterflies is one of the businesses that has benefitted from grant money intended to break down barriers for employers and students. Cee-Cee pays her interns directly, but she can apply for reimbursement from the program run through the Greenville Chamber Foundation.
Cheryl Garrison has been a warrior for this support system. She’s fought through pandemic challenges, hiring restrictions, and mountains of red tape that might have scared off a less passionate person.
It’s her job, but Garrison believes passionately that money should not be a barrier for students entering the workforce or people trying to build businesses that could eventually provide even more jobs in our community.
Garrison’s persistence also rallied a small army to help public transportation provider Greenlink establish a LaunchGVL internship. Javier Hercules is a high school senior studying Diesel Technology at Bonds Career Center. The foundation of technical skills and professional certifications Javier is earning at Bonds helped him land his internship. The real-world experience he’s getting now at Greenlink makes Javier even more marketable in an industry that’s facing major workforce shortages.
SKILLS GAP SNAPSHOT
A huge portion of South Carolina’s skilled labor workforce is nearing retirement age, according to Be Pro Be Proud SC, and the organization says there aren’t enough young people like Javier training alongside older workers to fill their shoes when they retire. One transportation and distribution executive told Be Pro Be Proud the workforce shortage is “a four-alarm fire.”
Be Pro Be Proud is trying to raise awareness about the skills gap in SC by showing students and their parents how many high-paying careers are available in the skilled trades - many without a college degree.
Here are some stats from Be Pro Be Proud to show just how bad the skilled labor shortage is:
- 48% of workers holding a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in SC are 53+ years old
- In SC, more than 24% of skilled workers are at or near retirement age
- 86% of SC manufacturers have unfilled jobs
By 2025, Be Pro Be Proud says the skills gap in the U.S. will grow to 2 million. As the gap widens, the ripple effect will be huge.
Programs like the one Javier Hercules attends at Bonds Career Center are putting a small dent in the labor shortage slowing down public transportation and worldwide commerce. If you think that’s dramatic, look at it this way: nearly every man-made thing you see wherever you are right now has likely gotten there after long trips packed into tractor trailers.
THIS SHORTAGE HURTS YOU, TOO…EVEN IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT CAUSED THE PAIN
When a truck breaks down on the side of the road and there’s not an available diesel technician, you could feel the pinch. The shoes you bought online for your kids, the card your grandmother sent you, or the food you ordered to make your family’s weekly meals might not make it to you on time.
LaunchGVL and other workforce development initiatives have the potential to keep us all in business and give young people a jumpstart on rewarding careers. When companies sign up, they commit to hire their interns for at least six-to-eight-weeks. Ideally, an internship serves as an audition for longer-term employment.
Greenlink extended Javier’s internship until March. That’s when another intern will join the Greenlink team.
Javier is welcome to apply for a full-time position when he graduates this spring.