NORTH AUGUSTA — South Carolina’s technical education system is a big reason for the state’s economic growth, Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette said Jan. 10.
South Carolina broke its record for largest single economic development project announced twice in 2022, Evette told the women of the Steel Magnolias Republican women’s group at Southbound Smokehouse.
BMW announced a $1.7 billion expansion of its Upstate operations, including $1 billion for the production of electric vehicles in Spartanburg and $700 million to build a battery assembly plant in Woodruff.
Redwood Materials announced plans to construct a $3.5 billion plant in Berkeley County that will build electric vehicle parts.
The Census Bureau recently announced that South Carolina led the nation in population growth percentage from 2022-2023.
“We keep growing because we are so blessed with an amazing technical college system,” Evette said. “We can create the workforce of tomorrow.”
South Carolina’s technical college system includes 16 schools serving different areas of the state. Aiken County is served by Aiken Technical College.
Evette added her middle son, Joey, chose to attend Greenville Technical College.
The Evettes live north of Greenville in Travelers Rest.
Evette said Joey played lacrosse in high school, and her friends would ask her about Joey’s college plans at the games. She said Joey was the smartest of her three children but didn’t want to be in school anymore.
“Oh my God, he didn’t get into Clemson,” Evette remembers her friends asking. “It really dawned on me how everyone viewed our technical college system as almost a second-tier option.”
Most people don’t realize there are good careers for graduates of a technical college, Evette continued.
She added someone with a mechatronics degree — design and analysis of sensors and actuators — can make $55,000 per year and, if that person is a good employee, six figures three years after graduation.
The best part, Evette continued, is that graduates will have zero college debt.
Evette said she tours businesses around the state — she visited Aiken’s AGY plant in 2023 — and speaks to groups of Republicans. She said she is often told by businesses that employees need soft skills and by parents that children need to learn fiscal responsibility.
“Really all we need to do is get our kids working again,” Evette said.
She added youth employment is as low as it’s been.
“Kids will learn soft skills in that first job,” Evette continued. “You can’t teach fiscal responsibility to someone who’s never had a job. They don’t know what they’re giving up to earn a dollar.”
Evette said she’s started a statewide campaign to encourage parents to let their children get afterschool jobs