AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — As South Carolina reopens, the state is racing to get people back to work. An estimated 82,000 residents are unemployed. To address this, Governor Henry McMaster has launched a new, free workforce training initiative between the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce and the S.C. Technical College System.

Under the new partnership, unemployed South Carolinians can take part in short-term job training programs at their local technical college “in lieu of conducting a weekly job search.” The program is free for South Carolina residents.

“We have identified 11 programs for this initiative that are 16 weeks or less in length, lead to an industry-recognized credential or certificate, and have a high placement rate in critical workforce areas,” Tim Hardee, the S.C. Technical System President, says.

Aiken Technical College launched the program earlier this year and now has one graduating class. It plans to offer the 10-week course again in July and October.

“We have a situation in Aiken County where there are a lot of jobs without people,” Dr. Forest Mahan, the President of Aiken Technical College, says.

“We are very well aware that people may need enhanced or new skills in order to go back in the workforce,” Athena Freeman, Aiken Technical College’s Operations Manager for the Training and Business Development Department, adds.

Aiken Tech’s program consists of 12 students per course and focuses on manufacturing. Students will have the opportunity to take certifying exams at the end of the course.

“The training consists of the ManuFirst SC component, which are safety, quality, production/process and maintenance,” Freeman explains.

“These jobs, even though they’re 10 weeks, are what we would call high-wage, high-demand and high-skilled jobs,” Mahan adds.

Following each course, Aiken Tech will help students with their resumes and host “mini job fairs” for positions that connect directly with their skills. It’s a chance for a new beginning for South Carolinians after months of uncertainty.

“Anyone looking to start their lives anew and come out of the pandemic with a new opportunity for growth and development, please reach out to us,” Mahan says.

You must be a South Carolina resident to qualify for the program. Apply here.