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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - People seeking careers in the transportation, construction, and utility fields now have a new way to explore their interests.

Thursday, Governor Henry McMaster and other state leaders unveiled the Be Pro, Be Proud SC project, which includes a new 53-foot, double expandable 18-wheeler. The mobile workshop includes eight simulators, like truck driving, forklifts, and carpentry and welding machines, and it aims to grab high school students’ interest and help them realize a career in the trades is just as respectable as attending a four-year college.

“There are a lot of jobs, a lot of careers out there that most people just don’t know about, and they don’t get excited about it when they hear about them,” explained McMaster, “but if they have the opportunity to go into this vehicle, or others like it, to learn what is available, and the amount of money you can make, it is mighty attractive. It makes for a good strong living.”  

The Department of Employment and Workforce will oversee the “Be Pro, Be Proud SC” project. DEW director Dan Ellzey said South Carolina currently has an 8.4% unemployment rate, which is three times higher than it was this time last year. But he says the pandemic has actually increased demand for fields like transportation, construction, and utilities.

“Now more than ever, finding meaningful work that can withstand economic downfall, including a pandemic, is critical for many South Carolina families,” said Ellzey. “The jobs built into this interactive experience are important to the state’s economy and provide exposure to skilled-based careers that students may not have considered.”

The Department of Labor estimates jobs in the skilled trade fields will increase by as much as 25% in South Carolina over the next decade, and two million jobs could be left unfilled by 2025 due to an aging workforce.

President of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina Wayne Moore said two-thirds of parents feel jobs in the trades are not for their children, and he hopes “Be Pro, Be Proud SC” will help change that mindset.

“We need that electrician. We need that air condition tech when it goes out on Friday night, and Saturday is going to be hot,” said Moore. “We need these people. These are careers, and they’re good.”

This project was made possible through public and private collaboration of state leaders, including the Associated Industries of South Carolina Foundation.

“Be Pro, Be Proud SC” already has 33 scheduled tours across the state for 2020-2021. Right now, around 20 people can be on board at one time, wearing masks and practicing social distancing. There’s also plenty of sanitizer.

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