$100,000 Workforce Development Grant Awarded to Barnwell County (SC)

Rural Development Partners (Forest City, IA) and NMTC partner Cascades (Barnwell, SC) awarded a matching funds grant of $100K toward workforce development initiatives for Barnwell County, a region dominated by manufacturing, agriculture, and service industries. Barnwell is one of seven counties represented by the SouthernCarolina Alliance, a regional nonprofit organization providing economic development marketing and recruitment in the Lower Savannah and Lowcountry regions of South Carolina. Manufacturing is the largest industry employer in the region accounting for 16% of employment with only 50% labor force participation. According to the 2018 ACS, 20.7% of families live at or below the poverty level. Area employers in the manufacturing sector have repeatedly identified soft skills training and lack of manufacturing experience as their biggest hiring challenges.

The workforce development grant will help to narrow the skills gap, improving opportunities for individuals seeking employment in manufacturing, while creating a pipeline for area manufacturers. The matching funds grant will be used to upskill approximately 71 residents in Barnwell County through two training programs, ManuFirst SC and Microburst Learning EmployABILITY Skills. Students will have the potential to earn 5 industry recognized certificates upon successful completion.

ManuFirst SC

South Carolina’s ManuFirst program is designed to be a stackable certificate with seamless transition to the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council Certified Production Technician certification (MSSC certificate) program. The program will allow participants to demonstrate their knowledge of manufacturing processes. Created in 2017, ManuFirst SC is a statewide initiative to provide a solution for lack of experience in the job-candidate pool for manufacturers, with more than 1200 certifications having been earned since its inception. During this 70-hour course, the participant will learn the production processes and procedures necessary to qualify for manufacturing jobs throughout South Carolina. The class discusses essential safety policies, communication best practices, quality standards, production processes and maintenance awareness. Upon successful completion of the course, students are awarded a ManuFirst SC Certificate, OSHA 10 card, Manufacturing Skills Standards Council Safety Certificate, and LEAN Manufacturing Yellow Belt Certificate.

Microburst Learning EmployABILITY Skills

Microburst Learning EmployABILITY Skills training is a 40-hour turn-key certification system for cultivating individuals’ soft skills. The program focuses on ten soft-skills areas: 1) Interpersonal Skills; 2) Employment Basics; 3) Communication Skills; 4) Teamwork; 5) Conflict Resolution; 6) Dependability and Reliability; 7) Flexibility & Adaptability; 8) Planning & Organization; 9) Productivity; and 10) Initiative. To earn the certificate a student must successfully complete all ten Certification Assessments with a Silver or Gold rating, and a statement from the Program Instructor that the student has demonstrated the behavioral changes in the classroom. This Certificate is endorsed by Microburst Learning, the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, and the Mechanical Contractors Association of South Carolina.

Denmark Technical College

Barnwell County is home to three high schools and is one of three counties served by Denmark Technical College. The technical college is an open-door institution providing affordable, post-secondary education, culminating in associate degrees/diplomas/certificates to citizens from diverse educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. Both the ManuFirst and Microburst courses are delivered simultaneously in-person at Denmark Technical College, Barnwell Campus. A faculty member from Denmark Technical College will deliver the ManuFirst SC program; and the SC Department of Commerce Regional Workforce Advisor and master instructor will deliver the Microburst EmployABILITY Skills training program.

Program Recruitment, Timeline & Opportunity

Participants will be recruited from Barnwell County communities, local manufacturers, Adult Ed students, and graduating high school seniors. In the event class slots are not filled by Barnwell County residents, individuals from Denmark Technical College’s remaining two service-area counties (Denmark & Allendale) will be invited to participate. The program will be offered from February 1, 2021 – August 2022 at 5/6-week cohorts to follow Denmark Technical College’s calendar year. Upon successful completion of the program, students can participate in a job fair with local business and industry. Each student will create PING by TALLO, a web-based app that creates the experience of a virtual career fair with mutual matching between candidate and recruiters. This will enable candidates to see which employers are hiring beyond Barnwell County in the SouthernCarolina Alliance and Lower Savannah workforce regions.

Rural Development Partners

Rural Development Partners utilizes the NMTC Program to help organizations throughout the nation build and expand their operations in distressed rural communities. RDP investments help create jobs, economic growth, training opportunities, and food security for Rural America by partnering with organizations that take action to invest in and support their local communities. From 2004 through 2020, RDP has won ten NMTC awards from the U.S. Treasury totaling $656.7 million. In addition to providing NMTCs, RDP partners with NMTC projects to provide a matching funds grant toward community development initiatives through RDP’s Community Investment Program. RDP worked with community leaders in Barnwell to determine the most impactful use for grant funding.