A new generation of high-tech manufacturing is undoubtedly emerging, but if South Carolina can’t keep pace with that transformation, the state’s economy will be left in the dust. That’s the unnerving reality that a recent study from the University of South Carolina reveals about our state’s future.


The study – released by the university in November 2013 – notes that by 2030, our state will have a shortfall of about 44,000 workers holding two-year degrees and about 70,500 workers who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher.


The report also notes that the percentage of a state’s population with a college degree is the single best predictor of its national ranking in personal per capita income levels. Without a trained workforce, the economic gains that South Carolina has made in recent years will certainly erode.


Companies such as Bridgestone and MTU America in Aiken County thankfully have a formula that’s working – cultivating workforce development programs that help to sustain the region’s economic stability.


The jobs at Bridgestone, for instance, provide good pay and a benefits package that includes medical, dental and vision insurance, a 401K plan, as well as a tuition match for those who want to continue their education.


Both companies have received praise and recognition for their forward-thinking job development initiatives.


When companies locate to an area, they typically search for employees that fit the skillsets for those jobs. Those businesses need to know they can find workers in the area.


Our community’s history is already steeped in the idea of scientific and technological advances helping to create jobs. The Savannah River Site brought thousands of jobs to the Aiken area – both blue-collar and white-collar.


It’s unlocking that kind of innovation that can bring a rush of new jobs, which consequently, sparks economic development.


Helping to cultivate that innovation is the job of universities, and, to some extent, South Carolina policy makers.


Lawmakers in Columbia need to appropriately fund higher education and allow administrators to foster the right academic environment. That combination can help schools provide the graduates who will fill the creative and leadership positions for businesses in our state. A fiscally stronger South Carolina is largely the result of graduating more students from our schools and keeping our best and brightest when they graduate.


Aiming for such an outcome should help promote the creation of new business in our state and ensure that those businesses already here continue to grow and hire.