There are more good jobs than qualified individuals to fill them.
For every three jobs that require a technical college graduate, Albany Tech can provide only two candidates. Existing industries, especially those that provide essential goods and services, are expanding. Nurses and commercial truck drivers are retiring faster than ranks are being replenished. The new industries are located in the same region as expanding industries; both needing additional technical college graduates.
A significant number of Southwest Georgians live in poverty because they lack adequate workforce preparation.
Nine of the twelve zip codes that make up the Albany Technical college’s service delivery area (SDA) are considered economically distressed or at risk. Up until recently, these zip codes had historical high school graduation rates that were below both the state and national average. All public school systems in the SDA have improved both the quality of their graduates and the percentage of students graduating. However, because of a declining number of elementary and middle school students, it’s expected that the number of high school graduates will also decline.
The same nine zip codes have poverty rates above the state and national average. Education is likely the best determinant of affluence. However, zip codes identify the locations where the individuals live that need our services most.
Technical college graduates usually earn a wage that allows them to become affluent.
Occupations such as commercial truck driver, air conditioning technician, industrial systems technician, nurse, radiation technician, emergency medical technician, welder, diesel technician, automotive technician, and electrician require a high school diploma or its equivalent and one or two years of a technical college education. Graduates from these programs and others are likely to earn incomes that will allow them to become affluent.
The number of students graduating from high school will be inadequate to fill all of the critical vacancies.
Which Southwest Georgians will be available to fill vacancies for these high paying jobs? A combination of factors points us toward young adults who haven’t completed high school. The population is declining in six of the seven counties in the SDA served by ATC. The number of students expected to attend public high school will likely decline or remain stagnant for the next ten years. Therefore, our SDA’s continued prosperity will depend on either automation or convincing underprepared adults to get ready to compete for well-paying jobs. Automation has its limits. Qualified artisans and technicians will still be needed in greater numbers. Consequently, we are reliant on underprepared adults attaining the relevant skills to secure employment.
Are the results worth the effort?
Is this a worthy endeavor? Is it doable? Is this worth our time and attention? The answer is yes. Over 700 high school students enrolled at Albany Technical College during the latest academic year. They simultaneously acquired a basic education and workforce skills. Adults without a high school diploma or GED can do the same. Each term, Albany Tech should persuade at least 500 adults to enroll to earn a GED or high school equivalency and relevant workforce credentials. PELL and HOPE grants will pay for much of the cost of attendance. Adult education classes are free in Georgia and local stipends are available to reimburse students for the cost of sitting for the GED. Those who need adult education and a workforce credential should embrace the journey and enjoy the rewards.