Horry County Schools Program helps address workforce shortage

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Schools’ Adult Education program aims to prepare students for the workforce and connect them with local employers.

The free program is available to adults not currently in school with classes held in person or online Monday through Friday. Childcare is provided for free.

For students like 29-year-old Matthew Waters, Horry County Adult Education was a second chance to finish school. He did not graduate high school and is now enrolled in the program to get his GED.

“The pandemic hit us just like that,” Waters said. “It made me think ‘what am I going to do with my future?’ Look how the whole world just changed overnight.”

Waters worked in the restaurant industry for most of the time since he was in high school. The pandemic allowed him to rethink his career path.

“I wanted to get out of the restaurant industry and start a new career somewhere else,” Waters said.

Waters enrolled in the program with hopes to use his GED to pursue a career either in sales or in medicine. He attends class every weekday from 8 a.m. until noon before working night shifts at a local restaurant.

“It’s been a really good process,” Waters said. “I thought it was going to be a lot harder. The way they broke it down here, they have their system and how to get it done. It’s been a lot less stressful.”

Etta Carter is the program’s director and has been for the past 8 years. “I think that I like the fact that we give people a second chance,” Carter said.

There are classes from basic English literacy to masonry and programs that help students become nursing assistants. Horry County Adult Education also teams up with local employers to host job fairs and posts openings regularly.

One of the main goals is to help students become more employable with better, higher-paying jobs.

“We are almost like the plug to be able to plug into all of the different opportunities that are available in our area,” Carter said.

With more than 100,000 jobs opening across South Carolina, according to the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW), help-wanted signs are everywhere. There’s an added incentive from DEW of a $500 bonus to anyone receiving unemployment benefits who earns their GED. It’s all part of an effort to get more people to work while landing better jobs.

“It’s a win-win situation because while you’re on unemployment you could get the skills needed to get your high school diploma and also pick up a trade that will make you more employable,” Carter said.

Registration for the free program is open throughout the school year. Apply here.

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