Cheryl M. Stanton was appointed Executive Director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) by Gov. Nikki R. Haley in May 2013. She is responsible for the direction and management of the state’s employment agency, which is focused on providing quality, customer-driven workforce services that promote financial stability and economic growth to individuals, businesses and communities.
Stanton is widely known as a strategic problem solver, business process improvement engineer and a leader who can implement long-term change management across complex organizations. Under Stanton’s leadership, the agency has flourished by expanding the effectiveness of its workforce department and transforming its unemployment insurance (UI) division.
With the number of people working increasing by 10 percent to an all-time high of more than 2.2 million people and the unemployment rate at a record low, Stanton is attentive to the vision of identifying the workforce needs of South Carolina’s growing business community and preparing individuals with the education and skills training required to meet those needs in the immediate and long-term future.
In 2013, Stanton began a realignment of the Workforce and Economic Development (WED) division to better serve customers. She spearheaded the state’s first workforce Memorandum of Understanding, fostering partnerships with other agencies to identify and adopt workforce opportunities while sharing resources and assets. These partnerships include initiatives for veterans, returning citizens, individuals with disabilities, youth, and the homeless, as well as programs to enhance soft skills, address training for industry clusters and effectively match job seeker to business.
One of Stanton’s most significant partnerships organized by DEW, S.C. Department of Commerce, S.C. Technical College System and the S.C. Department of Education is the S.C. Talent Pipeline project. This long-term talent development system is built on studying data and defining needs at a regional level and then implementing system change, processes and best practices that will create a pipeline of skilled labor for South Carolina businesses.
Through Stanton’s leadership, DEW paid off a nearly $1 billion loan used to help pay state unemployment insurance benefits between 2008 and 2011, during the Great Recession. Early repayment of the loan ensured S.C. businesses did not pay federal unemployment insurance surcharge taxes, saving businesses more than $12.5 million. Since then Stanton has worked with the General Assembly and business community to rebuild the trust fund reserve in a measured, responsible way that does not overly burden businesses, but ensures South Carolina does not return to a borrowing status.
Today, with Stanton’s guidance, individuals receive unemployment insurance benefits faster than ever before, while reducing fraud and overpayments. The UI division consistently meets and surpasses federal regulations, saving South Carolinians millions of dollars. In fact, with Stanton’s strategic implementation of quality oversight and updated programs, DEW has exceeded federal requirements in every UI department and continues to adopt efficiencies for the whole division. These enhancements, combined with other revised business processes, have enabled DEW to reduce UI taxes for three consecutive years for an average cut of 30 percent across the tax tiers, putting nearly $200 million dollars back into the state’s economy.
While the daily employment situation is always a top priority, South Carolina has faced challenges during Stanton’s tenure that she handled with speed and finesse. In October of 2015, under her direction, DEW responded to the victims of the historic flooding, assisting those who had lost their job or workplace as a result of the storm and helping South Carolinians recover and get back to work. One year later, Hurricane Matthew devastated the state, and DEW responded with the same swift assistance to help those affected by the hurricane.
Extremely active in both business and community groups, Stanton sits on the State Workforce Development Board, the Coordinating Council for Economic Development, the Workforce Coordinating Council, the Secretaries’ Innovation Group and the Board of Directors for the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. She also chairs the National Association of State Workforce Agencies’ Technology Committee and serves on the federal/state cross agency Workforce Information Technology Support Center Steering Committee. Stanton serves on the Board of Directors for Girls on the Run Columbia and the Board of Directors for the Five Points Rotary Club. Stanton is a member of the Liberty Fellowship’s Class of 2017.
Prior to her appointment at DEW, Stanton worked as a labor and employment attorney in both the public and private arenas. She served in the White House under President George W. Bush as the administration’s principal legal liaison to the U.S. Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She also worked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when he served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Stanton received her undergraduate degree from Williams College and law degree from The Law School at the University of Chicago.