SUMTER, S.C. — Manufacturing is big business in the Gamecock City and an industry Sumter Chamber of Commerce President Chris Hardy knows well.
"We have a lot of large industry and manufacturing employers," Hardy said.
Like much of the nation, filling job vacancies has been a challenge.
"Finding people that want to go to work in those jobs that may not necessarily be managerial level," Hardy said.
To help, the state has invested millions into South Carolina technical colleges, offering free courses for high demand jobs.
"Rather than students across the state having to pay out of pocket.... What are your shortages? How do we work with our local technical college to offer classes... and try to fill those gaps," Dr. Tim Hardee, President of the S.C. Technical College System said.
Since the beginning of last year, Hardee said over 6,000 students have received free education in fields like manufacturing and healthcare and slots are still open.
"The only requirement is you're a resident of the state of South Carolina," Hardee said.
Support is also available through the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW). The agency, which offers free job search and support resources around the state, is preparing a study to analyze the unemployment issue more closely.
Dr. Bryan Grady, Labor Market Information Director with SCDEW, said leisure and hospitality continue to be one of the hardest hit industries, though all sectors have seen improvements since the start of the pandemic.
"What are the causes of people who have left the workforce? What would they need to get back into the workforce?," Grady said. "A lot of people switching jobs, like I said, finding something that either pays more, offers more flexibility."
Hardy says Sumter is ready to work.
"We have the resources. It’s just a matter of getting the right people," Hardy said.
There are more than a dozen technical colleges around the state offering free courses. To find more information on programs available, visit the S.C. Technical College System online.