New engineering graduate degrees will help shape local future

A Boeing Co. engineer is shown inside a new autoclave at Boeing Research & Technology in North Charleston. (Provided/Boeing Co.)

BY ANITA ZUCKER

The Charleston area has more than its share of big thinkers. They have helped make this the country’s No. 1 tourist destination — Vanity Fair’s “America’s Paris.” We have watched with pride as people have recognized our community for the rare and beautiful gem that it is.

In recent years, though, the Charleston area has attracted not only tourists, it has captured the attention of big business and industry. In fact, our community has become the manufacturing hotbed for dozens of domestic and foreign companies in advanced security, biomedical, transportation, aerospace, energy systems and advanced materials.

At the same time, the Charleston area has quickly grown to become a leader in the tech growth field. With more than 200 tech companies, Charleston’s tech economy is growing 26 percent faster than the national average — just as quickly as Silicon Valley.

This type of growth did not just happen. It took the will and careful planning of many with big ideas and dreams to help improve the Charleston area and the lives of all of us who live here.

With this good fortune, though, comes another challenge — how can we provide the highly skilled engineers and scientists these companies need to remain productive?

The Workforce Supply and Demand Gap Study conducted for the Charleston region reported that our economic growth is expected to be nearly 50 percent faster than the national growth rate of 6.1 percent.

According to that same report, over 36 percent of job growth in the Charleston region is expected to come from the engineering and computing clusters, and those clusters face the highest rate of workforce shortage.

We need all hands on deck to solve this one. Clemson University, The Citadel, the College of Charleston, the Lowcountry Graduate Center, Charleston Southern University and the University of South Carolina have come together through collaboration to strengthen our graduate engineering and computer science degree and certificate programs.

In the fall, Clemson will continue and add graduate engineering and computing certificate and degree programs to working professionals who want to remain in the Charleston area and take classes part-time. The degrees Clemson offers include:

Electrical and Computer Engineering: M.S. and Ph.D.

Eectrical Engineering: M.ENG. Degrees

Mechanical Engineering: M.S. and Ph.D

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Computer Science: Ph.D.

Digital Production Arts: M.F.A.

These are programs with the same engineering degrees that are offered on Clemson’s main campus and with the same opportunities for personal and professional growth for the Lowcountry’s engineers and scientists who would like to increase their knowledge and expand their opportunities in the job market.

My family and I are honored to be involved. The Clemson graduate engineering and computer programs will be anchored in the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center. The center will open in Fall 2016 on the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) campus in North Charleston.

Students of the program will also have the unique opportunity to work in applied research in Clemson’s SCE&G Energy Innovation Center, one of the world’s most advanced energy testing and research facilities, which is located beside the Zucker Center.

I am once again proud of our community and the big thinking that took place to find a way to provide the highly skilled workforce we need. I believe the programs that are being put in place will help shape the future of South Carolina’s engineering landscape and the health of our economy for generations to come.

Anita G. Zucker is chairperson and CEO of The InterTech Group, headquartered in North Charleston.