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S.C. Chamber names winners of Workforce Innovator award

Human Resources
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The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce announced Wednesday winners of the small, medium, and large employer categories for this year’s Workforce Innovator Award.  

The recipients are Chamber members that have used their resources and ingenuity to implement private sector workforce development solutions to address the skills gap and help create a workforce of the future, according to a press release.

The firms were recognized at the 2017 Workforce Symposium, hosted in partnership with South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce and S.C. Workforce Development Board and presented by Bank of America. The event was held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Kendra Sterling (from left), SRNS Engineer Fred Swanson, Elijah Jarrard, Ann Jenkins, SRNS Engineer Buford Beavers, Matthew Price, Satchel O'Meara, and Stephen Nelson, use a hands-on experiment involving a jar, rubber band, paper clips, and a metal nut to demonstrate how centrifugal force can have an effect on gravitational pull during this year’s SRS Teach-Ins Program at Paul Knox Middle School, in North Augusta, S.C. (Photo/Provided)Here are the winners and a brief description of their workforce efforts:

Small employer – With 140 employees, Chester-based PPG has provided support for K-12 and higher education in Chester County and the region by providing financial support for a number of robotics and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) projects in middle and high schools.  PPG has also invested in local Junior Achievement entrepreneurship programs and the Summer Externships for Educators program, which provides high school teachers the chance to work in industry during their summer break.

Medium employer – Sonesta Resort at Hilton Head Island, which has 200 employees, developed the School Incentive Partnership program to grow local talent.  Launched at Hilton Head High School, the program has been expanded to the other public schools.  The company recruits students 16 years and older, teachers, administrators, custodial staff, cafeteria attendants, school bus drivers, and school board professionals into part-time and full-time positions throughout the hotel.  In addition to normal wages, Sonesta donates $1 per employee for each hour they work to any school-sponsored academic club, activity, sport, or organization.

Large employer – The Aiken-based Savannah River Nuclear Solutions’ education outreach programs, which stress science, technology, engineering and math. Those initiatives include the Traveling Science Demonstration Program, Science & Technology Enrichment Program, Introduce a Girl to Engineering and various workshops, tours, lectures and demonstrations. The company, which has 5,000 employees, sponsors programs based on learning through competition such as the CSRA Science Fair, DOE Savannah River Regional Science Bowl and the Future City Competition. SRNS also annually offers a “mini grant” program to provide financial assistance to area teachers through corporate funding to help implement their innovative ideas. During this past school year, grants for more than 150 teachers, totaling $75,000, were awarded. SRNS helped develop the curriculum for a new certificate program at Aiken Technical College that prepares students for entry-level positions in the nuclear industry.  In addition, SRNS supported the program with a donation of $10,000 to help students offset the cost of enrollment.

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