For years, particularly since the development of the aeronautics sector in the Lowcountry economy, employers have been agitating for more governmental and academic support for the development of STEM expertise. For the longest time, the Charleston area had no graduate-level programs for engineering, technology or science – other than the life sciences at MUSC.
Imagine, then, the dilemma facing companies like Scientific Research Corporation (SRC), an Atlanta-based defense engineering contractor with an office on Remount Road in North Charleston across from the Navy’s SPAWAR facility.
With more 1,200 employees company-wide, SRC is constantly recruiting new talent – they currently have around 100 openings. That requires developing relationships with colleges and other institutions to keep the pipeline open.
Recruiting manager Ray Bradley says that recruitment and retention is an ongoing challenge. SRC recruits nationwide for tech talent that also has the appropriate security clearances to do business with the military sector.
One place SRC seeks talent is at the Lowcountry Graduate Center (LGC), which offers master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina in engineering management and The Citadel in project management, and graduate certificates from The Citadel in systems engineering management, technical project management, and technical program management.
Paul Fagala, vice president of the platform engineering and integration group, was already an SRC employee when he was encouraged by SRC managers to attend the Citadel’s technical project management program at the LGC. For many staff at SRC who live north and west of their workplace, heading over to the nearby graduate center minutes away is the most convenient location for graduate studies in the metropolitan area at the end of a workday.
“I made the transition from engineering to project management and felt that having a BA without a business background, there would be some ceiling there to advancement. I wanted to get into executive management,” Fagala said.
Then a program manager at SRC, Fagala studied for two years and earned a promotion almost immediately after graduating in 2014. He has since earned a second promotion to his current VP position.
SRC keeps staff informed about the opportunities for academic advancement and offers tuition assistance up to $5,250 annually for degree program courses. Fagala says his managers were also willing to accommodate his new schedule. All that vindicated his decision.
“It was a great decision to get a degree from a local school with a good reputation, but more importantly it added tools to my toolbox,” he said. “I honed skills and collaborated through team projects with a lot of smart people.”