News Update from Upper Savannah Council of Governments

Upper Savannah COG Wins 2 National Awards

During these times when employers are desperately seeking workers, the Upper Savannah COG workforce development staff recognized high school students as a resource to help fill some of the needs.

This past spring, Upper Savannah reached out to more than 2,000 seniors in 14 public high schools in the seven-county area with a “Your Next Step After Graduation” booklet listing who might hire them.

It was part of a project called Graduates Preparing for Success (GPS), aptly named because high school students need GPS-like directions on how to apply for jobs.

For its efforts, Upper Savannah has received a 2021 Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) for the GPS Project.

The GPS Project was one of two NADO Awards which USCOG received. Upper Savannah was also honored for the Abbeville County Federal Lands Access Improvements Project.

NADO is a Washington, DC-based membership association of regional development organizations that promote programs and policies that strengthen local governments, communities, and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery, and comprehensive strategies.

The association’s Impact Awards program recognizes regional development organizations and their partners for improving the economic and community competitiveness of our nation’s regions and local communities.

Each year, 2,000 or more seniors graduate from the 14 public high schools in Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda counties. Some continue on to four-year colleges while others aspire to only graduate high school, advancing immediately into the job market. Some college-bound seniors still want jobs with flexible hours to earn some income while they go to school.

The main focus of the GPS project was creating the booklet which lists employers who hire current high school students or recent graduates, information about the employer’s hiring process and recruitment method, incentives offered such as if the employer sponsors free training, and if they offer apprenticeships, flexible hours and tuition reimbursement; and also website address.

Approximately 90 employers are listed in the booklet which was distributed to each of the 2,000-plus graduates in May 2021. The S.C. Workforce Development Board provided the funding to print the booklets which also include helpful job search and interview tips.

Upper Savannah staff and workforce development partners also developed as part of the GPS project pop-up job fairs that were held in conjunction with high school graduation practices in May 2021. After practice, the employers were there waiting, enabling students to find out who had immediate openings and to put in applications.

Students were also exposed to information about SC Works Centers, which can assist them in finding work now and/or in the future. Without the GPS project, none of this information would have been available to this young pool of potential workers.

The Abbeville County Federal Lands Access Improvements Project is in the planning stage and could take some time to complete with assistance from the S.C. Department of Transportation.

The project involves better constructed roadways and trail heads with designated parking at three locations that will enhance the mobility and accessibility of all visitors to the Sumter National Forest in southeastern Abbeville County.

Abbeville County received a $3 million Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant to fund the project. USCOG applied for the funding on behalf of the County.

Paved, maintained roads are available to a certain point, but the last mile or so at each location is not up to standard. Because there are no designated parking areas, visitors park along the side of the road and create dangerous conditions for other drivers and pedestrians. There were six total motor vehicle accidents in the area of these locations in the past few years.

Clearing, paving, and creating designated parking areas will provide a stable foundation with more pavement width for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists to use the roadways together safely.

Award-winning projects were recognized during NADO’s 2021 Annual Training Conference, held in Portland, Ore., on October 16-19. The 2021 class of award recipients consists of 102 projects from 70 organizations spanning 24 states.

“During the past 20 months, regional development organizations across the country have shown just how valuable they are in supporting the local communities they serve,” said 2019-2021 NADO President Kevin Byrd, executive director of the New River Valley Regional Commission, located in Radford, Va.

“From COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives, to workforce and economic development projects, to social services programs and much more, the 2021 NADO Impact Awardees highlight the many ways our members work on the ground every day to improve quality of life in their regions.”

The NADO Impact Awards are presented in honor of the late Aliceann Wohlbruck who was NADO’s first executive director and served 24 years as a tireless champion for regional approaches to economic development in rural communities.

Since 1967 NADO has provided advocacy, education, networking, and research for the national network of 540 regional development organizations. NADO members provide professional, programmatic, and technical assistance to over 2,300 counties and 15,000 municipalities.