The Darla Moore Foundation has announced that financier and philanthropist Darla Moore has committed $25 million to establish a center for education and workforce development in her hometown of Lake City, South Carolina.
A partnership between the foundation, Francis Marion University, and Florence-Darlington Technical College, the Continuum, as the center will be called, will offer courses that lead to two- and four-year degrees, as well as dual enrollment courses for high school students, workforce development certificate programs, and programs for K-12 students. The 46,000-square-foot facility will feature high-tech classrooms, computer labs, distance learning classrooms, workforce development classrooms/labs, a health science space, and a large lecture hall that can be converted into event space. It also will include a business incubator, to be run by FMU through its Kelly Center for Enterprise and Innovation, which operates the business development center for the City of Florence.
With a focus on "advancing the knowledge and mastery of innovative and technical skills," the center is expected to enroll its first class of students in August and will offer a range of workforce development courses, including training in HVAC, welding, health sciences, and mechatronic and advanced manufacturing technology, as well as instruction in traditional subjects. For students who change their educational plans midstream, the center will make the transition "as seamless as one classroom across the hall from another," FMU spokesperson Tucker Mitchell told The State.
"There is no single path to becoming an educated person or to engaging in a meaningful vocation," said FMU president Fred Carter. "Through its unique structure and flexibility, the Continuum opens new doors for students across the spectrum. FMU is eager to begin this bold, new adventure."
"Major employers, everyone from Volvo to Boeing, inform me they need a better-trained, better-educated workforce to sustain their growth in our state," said Moore, who will chair the center's four-member board. "That's a vital need we must meet. I believe the Continuum will fast become a model for how that can be done."