South Carolina Leads the Way in Education and Workforce Data Systems

Posted by: Hank Hyatt - Greenville Chamber VP of Economic Development

Last summer, I had the privilege to attend the national Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) conference in Detroit. Leaders of several federal agencies cast a vision of vastly improved data systems in the education and workforce development space. Good data undergirds sound policy and can provide our current and emerging workforce with information that will accelerate their path to economic mobility.

Six months later, I am proud to say that South Carolina is leading the charge in developing better data.

South Carolina’s Act 67 (Statewide Education and Workforce Development Act), effective July 2023, created the Coordinating Council for Workforce Development. One of their primary duties is to create a Unified State Plan (USP) for education and workforce development. Underlying that objective are several data-oriented duties, one of which is coming into play as I write this.

Businesses in the Palmetto State need to be aware as this will impact them at some level.

Firms who file quarterly Unemployment Compensation wage reports to SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) will be required beginning with first quarter 2024 reports (due by April 30, 2024) to provide Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes and number of hours worked for each employee.

In prior years, SCDEW had collected only NAICS or industry codes. This provided aggregate-level data on how particular industries were faring in terms of employment and overall wages. It did NOT provide data linked to occupations. This data – appropriately cleaned, deidentified, aggregated and reported to the public - can be invaluable for students and job seekers as they explore their next opportunity well as for business and political leaders as they evaluate the effectiveness of the education and workforce development systems.

South Carolina is only the fifth state in the country to require SOC reporting. The others are Alaska, Louisiana, Washington, and West Virginia (Jan 2024). The foresight of our leadership should be lauded.

How should employers prepare? I recently spoke to Leslie Hayes with The Hayes Approach. Leslie shared the following guidance:

  • Work with your payroll provider to create a field to allow you to enter the SOC code along with job title at the time of new hire or status change. Add the SOC field to your new hire and status change checklists to ensure that the field is not overlooked and review all SOC codes annually (or on the same frequency that you review job descriptions and pay levels) to ensure that they accurately reflect changes in the position that occur over time.
  • Work with your payroll and/or IT provider to create a custom report that will report hours worked by SOC code without requiring you to calculate that information manually. It may take a little set up time and, perhaps, a financial investment to get the report created, but you will save money, aggravation, and errors in the long term.

The Hayes Approach works with nearly 50 small businesses who use 12 payroll systems between them, and, while it is easier with some systems than others, they are collaborating with each payroll system provider to track this information.

Businesses may find selecting SOC codes a bit challenging, a bit like comparing job titles for compensation surveys. It’s never totally a straightforward matter, especially if employees are performing duties that cross several SOC codes.

To ensure that employers are prepared to meet the spring deadline, Employers Network recently provided a complimentary interactive training session. Members of the SC DEW team guided participants through the process of locating SOC codes for employees and how to include them in your reports.
To view a recording of this webinar click here. The passcode is SCDEW-SOC2024.

South Carolina should be proud of this step in creating better data systems. While there will be some initial work on the part of employers, their payroll firms or HR partners, the payoff will be significant for future South Carolinians. As we say about the Chamber’s Accelerate initiative, we are planting seeds for trees under whose shade we may not sit. We know however that there will be shade for future generations.