Asphalt trade association looking to fill 1,000 jobs over 5 years.

Just as demand continues to grow for workers in home and other construction trades, the highway construction industry in South Carolina expects to add 1,000 jobs in the next five years as work gets underway on the massive Carolina Crossroads project in 2021 and improvements to state roads funded by a gas tax increase ramp up.

The S.C. Asphalt Pavement Association has tried to address that growing demand with its Asphalt Works! media campaign. The association says that with the S.C. Department of Transportation increasing its amount of road projects because of revenue generated by the gas tax increase, there is a need for more asphalt workers.

S.C. residents began paying an extra 2 cents per gallon in July, the third of six annual 2-cent increases approved by legislators in 2017. The increase is expected to generate an estimated $70 million a year to improve S.C. roads.

The SCAPA's statewide workforce development campaign includes increasing partnerships with government agencies, community organizations, job placement groups and schools to reach and train potential employees. This is the first time the asphalt industry has organized to market itself in South Carolina, previously relying on grass-roots and word-of-mouth promotion.

"The goal of the campaign is to shed light on our industry, bring awareness to our industry and the job opportunities, and to educate the public about the opportunities in the industry," said Ashley Batson, SCAPA executive director. "There's a ton of work. We are very busy, and we, of course, need people to be able to do more."

South Carolina has the fourth-largest highway system in the country, and the roads bill passed in 2017 also requires SCDOT to upgrade the conditions of more than half of the state's roads within 10 years. In addition, businesses consider road conditions and road maintenance when considering where to locate, industry officials say.

Asphalt companies large and small, as well as independent contractors, also still need workers to replace those lost during the Great Recession from 2007-2009, when the industry lost about half of its workforce, Batson said.

"With the tight economy, unemployment's really low, and we have this need," Batson said. "Several years ago during the recession, we had to let a lot of our workforce go, and we have to rebuild now that we have funding."

So far, South Carolina has been able to keep up with the workforce demand, thanks to anticipation of increased projects while...

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