From historical Charleston to beach front escapades, including Pawleys Island, South Carolina offers opportunities for everyone to explore and have fun, including college students. Of course, there are popular beaches to visit, too, including Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head. You also can check out historic Civil War sites, take advantage of the countryside, which features lowlands and mountains, or go to a place like Cypress Gardens, which is a botanical garden and theme park. As a college student at one of the South Carolina vocational schools, your most difficult choice may be how to spend your free time.
Trends at Vocational Schools in South Carolina
South Carolina boasts many opportunities for vocational education, including diplomas, certificates and associate degrees. Diplomas and certificates generally take a year or less to complete while associate degrees take about two. They all provide a way to quickly gain an education and take steps toward entering the work force. According to the South Carolina Department of Commerce, three of the biggest industries in the state are manufacturing; finance, insurance, and real estate; and government. Here's a closer look at how you might prepare for some of these industries in South Carolina through trade school or community college.
- Manufacturing: Find associate degrees in automated manufacturing technology, production association technology, mechatronics (that's the blending of computers, electronic and robotic machinery in manufacturing) and more at South Carolina vocational schools. In fact, some of the largest manufacturing sectors in the state include chemical products, motors vehicles and parts, plastics and rubber products, and machinery, any of which could give you ideas for possible educational paths.
- Finance: Instead of strictly focusing on business, you may want to pursue a career in finance or economics. This can provide a greater context for a future career as well as introduce concepts such as supply and demand, market structure and comparative advantage. An associate degree can be foundational in the field and prepare you to advance to other degrees, if you wish to, including finance at the bachelor's or master's degree level.
- Government: Political science may be up your alley, but so might criminal justice or human services. Associate degrees in all of these fields could open up opportunities in the public sector including in government at the local or state level. Of course, you'll need skills and insights, too, but South Carolina has 46 different counties, from Chester to Georgetown to York, and more than 300 cities, any of which could provide opportunities for recent graduates of South Carolina vocational schools.
Careers for South Carolina Trade School Grads
Some students who attend school here may consider finding a job in South Carolina. If so, be sure to check out the expected salary and job opportunities in your field. Here's a look at some recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for jobs in South Carolina:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||80||25350|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||900||22250|
|Insulation Workers, Mechanical||480||35470|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||290||27280|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||370||59780|
|Physical Therapist Aides||550||21890|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||720||35110|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||760||59050|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||1180||56380|
|Home Health Aides||10000||20280|
|Personal Care Aides||13020||19180|
The state even has a Ready SC program, which is a partnership program that promotes workforce development in the state. It works with 16 schools, all part of the South Carolina Technical College System, to help ensure students are receiving the necessary training and skills to meet workforce needs. Some of these partners include esurance, Michelin, Continental and others.
Expert Advice on Vocational Education in South Carolina
To learn more about trade and technical education, we spoke with Dr. Steve Lindner, an executive partner of Workplace Group. They recruit job candidates for small businesses, all the way up to Fortune 100 companies. Dr. Lindner earned his Ph.D in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Stevens Institute of Technology, and is currently seeking associate degree holders for multiple states across the U.S., including South Carolina, as well as skilled trades candidates.
Dr. Steve Lindner is an executive partner of Workplace Group.
RWM: Tell me a little bit about the job placement you do. Do you generally have more applicants with four-year degrees and beyond than those with associate degrees, as well as diplomas and certificates?
Dr. Lindner: The Workplace Group services industries ranging from logistics to manufacturing, technology, pharmaceuticals and engineering, accounting and finance, among others. The bulk of our hires are between entry level through director level with some executive level openings. Most of our hires are experienced professionals and skilled labor. Most of our candidates will have college degrees of some type -- either a two-year or four year degree. Skilled laborers likely will have an associate's degree along with a trade certificate or a license from an accredited school.
RWM: What types of areas are you recruiting for that require two-year degrees -- or even diplomas and certificates? What areas are popular?
Dr. Lindner: Jobs calling for two-year degrees could be IT and tech support, database administration, and web application support. We might have skilled positions open for manufacturing and logistics companies, as well as individuals working in contact centers doing customer service and order fulfillment across industries. There is also a need for people who can do bookkeeping, billing, accounts payable and accounts receivable, collections, and sales. In healthcare and pharmaceuticals, all of the positions I mentioned would apply.
RWM: In your experience, what are some of the overarching hot vo-tech trends in South Carolina?
Dr. Lindner: Health care and manufacturing would be the biggest trend from my vantage point.
RWM: As far as skilled trades, like welding or HVAC, what is the demand?
Dr. Lindner: HVAC technicians -- particularly those who can do more advanced work like refrigeration techs -- are in demand. There is also great demand for diesel mechanics, people who know how to service jet engines and locomotives. Machine operators and maintenance mechanics are in demand because jobs have left, but there is still manufacturing going on.
RWM: Do you find that much of the demand overall, including in South Carolina, for vocational careers is in healthcare?
Dr. Lindner: I find demand in S.C. and across the country for healthcare companies and careers related to nursing. Licensed vocational nurses, vocational nurses, RNs, physician's assistants, radiology or ultra sound techs are in demand. They need certifications, but not necessarily a four-year degree. There is big demand for phlebotomists all across the country, as well as for radiologists and radiology techs and ultrasound techs.
Manufacturing companies all need skilled labor, such as machine operators and maintenance mechanics, in South Carolina and all across the country. Not one state has an abundance of such people. Only when a manufacturer moves out of state. Some move with the company or go on to other types of work instead. We have more needs for skilled labor and semi-skilled labor than people who can fill them. Manufacturers often are in more rural locations (as opposed to Manhattan). They have demands for skilled labor that the local market may be able to fill.
RWM: What tips do you have for anyone considering a vocational education in the state?
Dr. Lindner: My best advice would be to obtain a certification in some specialized trade related to manufacturing or healthcare. Learn how to do advanced HVAC systems -- refrigeration and commercial coolers, for example. Train to become a medical technician for radiology or ultrasound and perhaps consider the nursing fields. With the rising number of seniors who need home healthcare, there is a rising need for home healthcare aides. For people who want an office environment, pick tech support or system administration. Learn something specific in a field and know it well.
Financial Aid in South Carolina
Applying for financial aid is not an unusual step. Many people do this, as it can lead to opportunities for federal school loans, work-study programs and even grants, which do not need to be repaid. The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which can be done online. If you still need more money to pay for college after that, you may find other options through private loans or even through scholarships and cost-savings measures. Students looking for financial aid opportunities in South Carolina may want to check out the following:
- South Carolina Need-Based Grant: This grant program is available to students who are South Carolina residents, can demonstrate financial need and also have not completed an associate degree or higher. Students must be pursuing a program that is at least 16 total credit hours in length.
- SC Lottery Tuition Assistance: To be eligible for this program, you must be a South Carolina resident, enrolled in a diploma, certificate or associate degree program, and be taking at least six credit hours. Award money can only be used for tuition and fees, not books.
- Greenville Tech Vocational Grant: Available to top vocational high school students each year, this grant is available at $500 per semester and up to an entire academic year. It can be used for tuition only, and students need to be recommended by their vo-tech high school or career center.
- Founding Fathers Scholarship: This $1,000 scholarship is offered through the Government Finance Officers Association of South Carolina and available to students attending a two-year school or a university. The scholarship is awarded at the association's spring conference.
Getting extra help can really be about putting yourself out there. Don't be afraid to ask around for opportunities, whether through the financial aid offices of South Carolina trade schools, vocational schools and community colleges or at state and regional organizations and associations that you may have connections with. Persistence may give you an advantage.
- Advanced Mechatronics, Spartanburg Community College, https://www.sccsc.edu/Industrial/
- All About South Carolina, Sheppard Software, http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/usaweb/snapshot/South_Carolina.htm
- Associate's Degree in Business Administration, Limestone College, http://www.limestone.edu/academics/associate/business-administration/general
- Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, https://fafsa.ed.gov/FAFSA/app/f4cForm?execution=e1s1
- Industries At A Glance by Percentage of Employment, South Carolina Department of Commerce, http://sccommerce.com/sc-advantage/industries
- Ready SC, A Division of the SC Technical College System, http://www.readysc.org/about.html
- Scholarships, Government Finance Officers Association of South Carolina, http://gfoasc.org/scholarships/
- South Carolina Counties, SCI, http://www.sciway.net/cnty/
- South Carolina Manufacturing Facts, National Association of Manufacturers, http://www.nam.org/Data-and-Reports/State-Manufacturing-Data/2014-State-Manufacturing-Data/Manufacturing-Facts -- South-Carolina/
- State Grant Program, Greenville Technical College, http://www.gvltec.edu/state-grants/
- Top 50 Fastest Growing Occupations, South Carolina, CareerOneStop, http://www.careerinfonet.org/oview1.asp?Level=Overall&from=State&stfips=45