How Charleston Creates a City of Opportunity
This summer, we've embarked on a road trip to find out how six cities are building equitable pathways to postsecondary and workforce success. On our first stop, we discover how the city of Charleston, South Carolina, uses data to create more equitable opportunities for all its residents.
This post was co-authored by Dana D'Orazio and Audrey Hutchinson. This is the second post in a series on the NLC Summer Road Trip in partnership with LinkedIn, an initiative made possible with funding from The Kresge Foundation.
Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina, a city focused on opportunity through education and employment that is actively building supports to help youth and adults overcome barriers and achieve success.
Charleston’s current talent strategy anticipates meeting the need for the 26,000 new jobs forecast to become available in the next five years. The city plans to accomplish this by focusing on health services, manufacturing, and information technology (IT) and software skills — employment areas and skill sets underscored by a recent economic graph analysis presented to the city by LinkedIn.
Out of the 311,000 LinkedIn member profiles in the Charleston region, IT and software services and the healthcare industry ranked as the top two growing markets in the region. LinkedIn data also showed the skills with the highest hiring rates in the last year included social media marketing, business development and C/C++, as well as other online programming and coding skill sets. Customer service skills were also in demand.
Armed with this data, Charleston is already making headway in implementing two key strategies to harness local talent and provide additional skills development and employment exposure to residents, with a keen focus on the underserved and those lacking access to opportunity. The two strategies revolve around the city's Youth Apprenticeship program and its Career Academies program.
As part of the Youth Apprenticeship model, high school juniors and seniors are enrolled in dual-credit courses for two to three hours per week (in addition to their regular high school classes) at Trident Technical College while also serving as an apprentice at an area company for 10 hours per week. During the summer months, these students work full-time and are paid.
Through the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Accelerate Greater Charleston fund, each Youth Apprentice is offered a full scholarship to cover tuition and textbook costs throughout the program. At the end of the two-year program, students earn a high school diploma and a certification and credential from the U.S. Department of Labor while incurring zero debt and gaining two years of paid work experience. Charleston has engaged 122 companies with 16 different occupations sets in the program, and is looking to increase this model in terms of number of youth served and companies involved.
Charleston’s 60 Career Academies are located in 21 local high schools spanning three school districts, and they work in partnership with more than 140 businesses. The academies focus on science, technology, engineering and math; business and IT; culinary and hospitality Services, and health sciences.
Through the city’s work with the National League of Cities (NLC) in the Building Equitable Pathways for Postsecondary and Workforce Success initiative, Charleston is looking to increase the reach of the apprenticeship model and connect more than 500 high school students to meaningful higher education experiences that lead to livable wages. The city plans to scale its apprenticeship model over the next four years to serve 200 more youth and increase the number of disconnected youth earning a GED and connecting to higher education.
Opportunities Through Partnerships
The three main local partners driving the Equitable Pathways project — the City of Charleston, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Trident Technical College — see themselves as spokes of a wheel, with all their work coming together to support the "hub" and ensure residents have a real opportunity to gain the skills and employment they need.
“We are grateful to work with the National League of Cities, which gives us access to national resources and experts like LinkedIn. The data shared from LinkedIn’s economic graph is helpful as it confirms some of the insights we had in terms of talent and has added more information around in-demand skills and our talent migration patterns,” said Mindy Sturm, director of the city of Charleston Mayor’s Office for Children, Youth, and Families.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg has stated that he is "dedicated to improving citizens’ quality of life and making Charleston a city of opportunity for all.” NLC is excited to work with Mayor Tecklenburg, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Trident Technical College to help Charleston achieve these goals and create opportunities for all the city’s residents.
About the authors:
Dana D’Orazio is the program manager for postsecondary education at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
Audrey M. Hutchinson is the director of education and expanded learning at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.