Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

More than 10,000 students graduated in May and June from area high schools and colleges, which should help local employers struggling to fill positions in a post-Covid world.

With the Charleston-North Charleston unemployment rate as low as 2.4%, just about everyone counted as a possible worker has a job. Now with an influx of new bodies — including more than 7,000 new high school graduates — we hope local employers will be able to benefit by filling job openings from the new pool of talent.  

As we tip our hat to new graduates, we encourage them to take advantage of wages that often are more than double the minimum wage. Compared to previous waves of new high school graduates who faced low-paying entry-level positions, it’s not uncommon for similar positions now to pay $15 to $20 per hour, transforming a once-anemic starting wage for subsistence living into a real living wage. 

New high school grads, particularly those who forego college immediately, can join area companies in everything from hospitality to service jobs and should be able to earn more than $40,000 a year with some company training. That’s a far cry from jobs that used to pay half as much. For the 3,000+ new college grads,
the salary opportunities are even better.

Todd Vollertsen, owner of Southpaw Softwash in Ridgeville, told City Paper special projects editor Herb Frazier that he hopes higher starting salaries will bring more people “to us so we can get better-qualified applicants. Good labor is not cheap, and cheap labor is not good.”

Even better: If new employees work full time and get additional training at Trident Tech or other educational institutions, they could move up the salary scale even more quickly than in years gone by.

Local employers struggling for workers after the whack of Covid-19 generally have had limited labor options — either import talent from outside the area, which is expensive and often cost-prohibitive, or find help from new graduates, local middle-aged people who have taken themselves out of the workforce to care for kids or older relatives, or retired workers who want to boost fixed incomes. The latter two options remain, but new graduates offer real hope for a local job market craving help that will relieve stress on existing workers.

So hats off to new graduates. And let’s hope they become the rays of hope that local employers are seeking to allow them to meet the needs of customers and expand their businesses as we move beyond the pandemic.

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