Dr. Anthony O. Parker

We’ve all heard the clichés. Success brings increased responsibility. To those who much has been given, much is required. Carry as you climb. Pay it forward. If you see something, say something. Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime. Are these statements just talk, or are they a call to take action? What do these statements have to do with Albany Technical College? What is the college’s duty to act?

You may have heard some of the following facts about our community. Twenty-eight percent of the adults in Albany Tech’s service delivery have not earned a high school diploma or GED. Additionally, according to the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, 26.4 percent of the population who live in the seven counties assigned to Albany Tech live in poverty. Six of the seven counties served by Albany Technical College are at risk or distressed. Only two zip codes are considered prosperous.

Albany Tech can currently provide only two qualified candidates for every three vacant positions requiring a technical college graduate. The shortage of nurses and other health care professionals is acute and growing exponentially. Southwest Georgia’s need for transportation, logistics, and e-commerce workers have grown because of the high demand for the products we produce and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local manufacturers not only require more production operators, they also require additional mechatronics technicians to install and calibrate automated and robotic systems. The need for telecom and information technicians continues to vastly expand. Our response to the pandemic has accelerated the demand for nurses, child care workers, and paramedics. As the pandemic ends, we will express our pent up desires to meet our friends, eat freely at restaurants, and travel on vacations. As the economy recovers, we will continue to renovate and build. Current facilities will require upgrades and new construction will require incorporation of the highest technology. 

It is our duty to encourage current high school students to continue to prepare to take their places addressing the critical shortage that is anticipated. We should encourage recent high school and GED graduates to prepare to take their places on high skill, high paying jobs. Though it’s not the fault of secondary education, the number of high school graduates is declining. Consequently, we must increase our emphasis on educating adults without a high school diploma or GED. It is our duty to recruit and to encourage adults without a high school diploma to joint enroll so that they can help to address the shortages of skilled workers.     

It’s obvious why the administration, staff, and faculty of Albany Technical College have a duty to act. The success of our key educational constituents, including adult education students, are a part of our mission. The duty to act is a part of Albany Tech’s DNA. The purpose of this blog is to convince you that you should join us. Also, we hope that you will tell us what we should do better or differently. 

Taking action will increase the likelihood that organizations will employ an adequate number of employees. Taking action increases the likelihood of finding skilled workers in a timely manner. Taking action should accelerate spending in the region’s economy. Taking action will likely increase the sale of durable goods. Taking action should increase the resources available to faith-based organizations and charities. Taking action should increase the number of families with employer-provided health insurance. Taking action should create a more robust local tax base. Taking action will decrease the number of families living in poverty. Taking action, including referring adults who don’t have a high diploma or GED to joint enroll, is the right thing to do.

We can meet this particular duty to act without requesting additional financial resources. The resources needed to grow our enrollment and the number of graduates have already been allocated. Albany Tech offers a comprehensive catalog of programs designed to meet the region’s needs. Albany Tech’s educational programs have high value and relatively low cost. HOPE and PELL financial aid is available for high school and GED graduates. PELL financial aid is available for adults who have not earned a high school diploma through “Ability to Benefit.” The HOPE Career Grant is also available for adults who have not earned a high school diploma. Adult education courses are offered at no direct cost to students. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding is available for dislocated workers. Dual enrollment options exist for high school students, and joint enrollment options are available for adults that haven’t graduated from high school.

If we’re able to meet local employment needs, we will be much more likely to encourage existing industries to expand. Also, we will be more likely to attract new industry. And in conclusion, we will increase the level of pride and self-respect of those who were previously unemployable.  Embracing the duty to act is the right thing to do.