There's something that six executives from some of state's largest companies can agree on — education will be crucial to the success of South Carolina's manufacturing industry.
On Tuesday, Clemson University will hold a panel dsisucssion featuring leaders from companies like BMW, Bosch and Samsung Electronics to discuss how colleges and universities can match some of their goals with what manufacturers need.
Right now, that means meeting a high demand for skilled workers in an increasingly tight labor market.
Six panelists are slated for the event: Knudt Flor, CEO of BMW Manufacturing; Mike Mansuetti, North American president for Robert Bosch; Scott Clark, North American president for Michelin;Dochul Choi, vice president at Samsung; Wolfgang Rubrecht vice president at Siemens; and Tim Hardee, president of the South Carolina Technical College System.
Hardee called South Carolina "one of the fastest-growing advanced manufacturing industries in the country," and Rubrecht said that digitization in manufacturing was presenting "tremendous opportunities" in the Southeast.
Rubrecht also noted that higher ed's role can be two-fold: building a talent base and promoting the mindset that South Carolina is an industry-rich region.
Just the fact that these executives are participating is a sign of the region's importance to manufacturers, said Mark Johnson, the panel's moderator and director of Clemson's Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
Advanced manufacturing already has a strong presence in the state, but as companies continue to adopt new technologies, Johnson said, they're seeking to expand.
Last year, 41 existing manufacturers in the state announced expansions, according to the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
But even as these companies acquire the technology that allows them to grow, the success of that expansion is dependent on their ability to fill positions with skilled workers.
For many companies, that's become a challenge.
The Charleston area alone is expected to have about 300 to 500 more job openings in the production and mechanical sector than local, skilled graduates, according to a study from the Charleston Metro Area Chamber of Commerce and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.
That's where initiatives from colleges and universities can help, Johnson said.
The goal of this forum, he said, is to ask the panelists where the current gaps are, what skills they want to see from future employees and how they think schools like Clemson can tailor their programs to train students for these jobs.
"This group of business leaders is going to be giving Clemson and Advanced Manufacturing its homework for the next year," Johnson said.
The forum, which begins at 6 p.m., will be held on the fifth floor of Greenville ONE and is expected to last about 45 minutes.