If the Charleston area gets a green light for a comprehensive research university, it should offer doctoral programs in information technology, engineering and industrial technologies, according to a report produced by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
The group Wednesday released the report, "Charleston Region Talent Strategy," at a meeting at Trident Technical College. It looked at gaps that exist between the education, skills and talents of potential employees in the region, and the needs of local businesses.
According to the report, 25,000 new jobs will be created in the region in the next five years. That's nearly seven times the growth of the previous five years. Occupational clusters expected to have the highest growth are: industrial production, computer and software, science and engineering, sales and marketing, medical and business.
Chris Engle, from Avalanche Consulting, one of the people who produced the report, said doctoral degrees in computer science and information technology especially are in demand. But there are no such degrees offered in the Lowcountry.
For instance, he said, SPAWAR employs hundreds of people with doctoral degrees in computer science. "But not one of them got their Ph.D. in Charleston."
The chamber was a strong supporter of a bill that would have formed the University of Charleston by expanding advanced degree offerings at the College of Charleston. The bill failed to pass during the last legislative session, but supportive lawmakers have vowed to file another bill in January, at the start of the new session.
It remains unclear, however, if they need to file a new bill. Leaders at the state's Commission on Higher Education have said they have the authority to amend the College of Charleston's mission to make it a comprehensive research university.
The chamber and lawmakers have said the Charleston area needs to offer more doctoral programs directly related to the growing region's business needs. But they have not been clear on what kinds of doctoral degrees a local research university would offer.
Laura Varn, a member of the chamber's Board of Directors, said of a research university, "We need it now." The loss in the Legislature "has only fueled our fire," she said.
Engle said companies likely will hire employees both from the local market and from other places. But it's easier and less expensive to hire people who already live in the area, he said. And local employees don't have to adjust to a lifestyle change, such as moving to Charleston from a larger city.
"And it's not just the Ph.D.'s. " he said. "It's all that comes with it." For instance, he said, software firms likely would set up design centers in places where such degrees were offered. "That isn't happening here."
In Charleston now, "you have the economy, but you don't have the education," he said. "All of your economic growth happens where your schools aren't."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.