The asphalt industry offers swift career advancement and high-paying jobs
By Ashley R. Batson, Esq.
Executive Director, S.C. Asphalt Pavement Association
Perhaps you’ve noticed more road crews on the ground across the state. This is an exciting time for infrastructure in South Carolina, where more and more roads are under construction or repair.
The asphalt pavement industry here in the Palmetto State is hard at work, and we’re excited to help workers connect with the increasing number of good jobs available in road construction. When it comes to businesses, agencies, and educational organizations, we’re hoping to increase our workforce development partnerships across South Carolina.
In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, there will be an anticipated 17% increase in the pavement program funding that will be put out for bid by the S.C. Department of Transportation compared to funding in fiscal year 2018-2019. Then in fiscal year 2020-2021, another 15% increase in the pavement program funding is expected to be released.
Already, the pavement improvement program has more than doubled over the past five years. By 2023, when the gas tax is fully implemented, S.C. DOT will have quadrupled the pavement improvement program.
It is crucial to maintain our roadways to spur new commerce—our road networks are a vital and important part of our economy in South Carolina. Major companies want to locate in states where there is a smooth, reliable road system for transporting goods from ports to distribution centers.
The S.C. Asphalt Pavement Association has been working to address the need to grow our state’s road construction workforce since 2013. We are working together to get the word out that the asphalt industry offers swift career advancement, high-paying skilled jobs, and a family environment where workers feel a great sense of integrity and pride in their work.
This year, our organization launched a statewide workforce development campaign to do just that.
Providing access to every available asphalt job in South Carolina, Asphalt Works! is a long-term, unified effort to drive the future success of the asphalt paving industry by expanding the current workforce and providing committed, motivated employees with the chance to build lasting careers with opportunities for advancement.
While we are excited to reach workers via targeted TV and radio ads, billboards, social media advertising, and more—all based on research conducted via interviews with workers at various experience levels across the state—we feel that partnerships will make a profound impact on our ability to fill an estimated 1,000 jobs over the next five years.
Already, SCAPA is having conversations with entities like the Midlands Education and Business Alliance (MEBA); adult education groups across Richland, Lexington, and Fairfield Counties; and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). SCAPA has partnered with the W.R. Rogers adult education center in Northeast Columbia, where training includes advanced highway construction. SCAPA members are hiring W.R. Rogers students as interns, and if those internships go well, those students will become prime candidates for full-time work in South Carolina's asphalt pavement industry.
Meanwhile, a program with DJJ starts this summer in Columbia and Union, through which SCAPA will come to talk with students who are working on their high school equivalency requirements and are looking at career options.
We want to make more of these connections around the state.
Many students thrive outside of a traditional four-year education, and there has been a resurgence of vocational education and the pursuit of skilled trades that pay well and provide quick advancement opportunities. We're seeing more support for such vocational education in our state, which in turn will connect more workers with pathways to success.
We have to work together to highlight the opportunities in these skilled trades.
Job seekers need to know that workers in the asphalt industry can make a great living with zero student loan debt. If they are reliable and hard-working, the industry will train them—and they will go far, quickly. No technical schooling is necessary, although certainly, if they come in with a heavy equipment operator certificate, that will help them advance more rapidly to a higher pay rate.
If you're involved with an organization that is engaged with people entering the workforce, from high school students, FFA, and 4-H members to veterans, adult education students, and other candidates, we want to connect with you.