“Advanced manufacturing” is a catchy term applied to the aerospace and automotive industries, and for good reason garners the attention of South Carolina’s political leaders and economic developers. But advanced manufacturing is heavily dependent upon the logistics and supply chain industry, which is composed of ports, steamship lines, railroads, stevedores, longshoremen, crane and heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, warehousemen, government agency employees, customs brokers and freight forwarders, and dozens of other occupations.

But these same logistics system businesses that are so incredibly vital to the manufacturing sector are facing critical shortages in skilled labor.

There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is the perception that one must graduate from high school and head off to college. Many of these jobs require only a high school education, and often have a starting salary well exceeding South Carolina’s average annual income.

Our state and our country must embrace career development opportunities for this sector. South Carolina’s technical education system, one of the best in the nation, must offer truck driver, forklift, heavy equipment operator and maintenance technician training in addition to their manufacturing training.

Middle and high school curriculums must be customized to include these industries to prepare students for the workforce, where jobs are immediately available.

Archaic federal laws regarding truck driver minimum age also are in desperate need of attention. These types of limitations are crippling our ability to expand our workforce. We need apprenticeship programs, added and updated curriculum, educational tracks to match today’s jobs, and a greater appreciation for what jobs drive our state’s economy.

We encourage interested parties to visit our industry career fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at 1142 Morrison Drive in Charleston.

Heather Holmquest

President

Maritime Association of South Carolina

Morrison Drive

Charleston