The Greenwood County state delegation joined S.C. Chamber president and CEO Otis Rawl Friday morning in addressing Greenwood business leaders at the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce’s annual Legislative Breakfast.
Rawl covered a variety of topics of importance to the business climate in South Carolina. Rawl said workforce education is a key component to bringing jobs to South Carolina and, in his opinion, the state is failing its future workers.
“We’re just not producing the type of skilled workers we need to fill the jobs we have created in advanced manufacturing,” Rawl said. “What we’re finding right now is that kids coming out of our high schools and technical colleges are going to have to have a different skill set in order to work and perform the types of jobs that Gov. (Nikki) Haley is working to bring to our state.”
Rawl said the K-12 Reform Initiative, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this week as part of the FY2014-15 budget, is a step in the right direction, but believes total education reform is necessary for students in South Carolina to be able to compete in a global marketplace.
“When we talk about transforming education, we’re not talking about transforming the system we have,” Rawl said. “We’re talking about blowing up the system we have. We’re going to have to figure out how to deliver education with technology as the method of choice for these children where kids can learn at the rate they want to learn and not treat every child exactly the same.
“We also we believe that we will have to get away from the way we decide if kids are competent and when they are being successful in a grade,” Rawl continued. “There’s no reason for a child to stay in ninth grade if they can produce at a 10th or 11th grade level. We should not hold those kids back.”
Rawl also touched on infrastructure and tax policy as keys to continuing to grow South Carolina’s business climate. Rawl said the state chamber is currently working on a survey asking whether or not South Carolinians would be willing to pay a higher gas tax to fund infrastructure on an annual basis. Rep. Mike Pitts asked those in the room who were in favor of a gas tax for infrastructure to raise their hands. An overwhelming majority of those present raised their hands. Rawl also noted that an additional $2-$3 fee for renewing a driver’s license could be used for additional funding for roads and bridges.