I’m not a sociologist; however, the work done by the Technical College System of Georgia and Albany Technical College has the potential to make positive changes to the culture in Southwest Georgia. I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist; nevertheless, I’ve seen evidence that improving the earning potential of individuals will improve their emotional outlook. I’m not an anthropologist; but I’ve seen entire communities prosper when the number of well-paying jobs increased. Unfortunately, I’ve also observed the decline of Individual municipalities and entire regions because well-paying jobs and skilled workers leave. I’m not a criminologist; but I’ve observed a correlation between crime and income.
My colleagues and I are workforce developers. We take pride in being a part of an agency whose entire mission is centered on workforce development. I am pleased that Albany Technical College is a part of the Technical College System of Georgia. As workforce developers, our college is responsible for preparing the citizens of Southwest Georgia to meet the needs of our region’s employers. This responsibility requires us to be proactive in matching employer needs to worker availability. Technical and community college leaders must be over the horizon thinkers and planners.
At a minimum, we must plan five years ahead. Individuals who expect to be employed as CDL drivers on December 1, 2020 should be enrolled today. Students who expect to be employed as diesel technicians, automotive technicians, plumbers, electricians, carpenters or cosmetologists by January of 2022 should be enrolled today. Those who expect to begin a career as a licensed practical nurse by July 2022, should already be enrolled at a technical college. Students who expect to be employed as a registered nurse, paramedic, or industrial systems technician before 2023 should have enrolled before 2021.
At present, Albany Technical College can provide only two graduates to interview for every three jobs that require a postsecondary technical college graduate. The inability to provide a qualified graduate for each anticipated vacancy is a national, as well as a Southwest Georgia problem. This means that well-paying jobs that require a high level of technical skills often go unfilled in the short term or, at best, are filled later rather than sooner. However, this should not deter us from recruiting students to train for critical workforce shortages. Further, we must proceed with deliberate speed and purpose.
The dilemma is that we have employers who are seeking local citizens to fill well-paying jobs. Paradoxically, at the same time we have citizens who need to earn more for themselves and their families. There is no secret sauce. Workforce preparation for the under employed and unemployed is a major part of the solution. Workforce preparation usually requires delayed gratification. Technical colleges usually need between three months and two years to prepare a student for the workforce. Is this amount of sacrifice reasonable? Are there alternatives?
What do we expect from our underprepared neighbors? What should they expect from their community? Should the under employed and unemployed neighbors be persuaded to spend more with retailers in Southwest Georgia? Should they purchase additional durable goods? Should their families have the benefit of employer provided health insurance? Do the unemployed and underemployed deserve the satisfaction, fulfillment, and security of a well-paying job that is a part of a career? Should employers be able to source qualified employees in a timely manner? Does Southwest Georgia deserve a more prosperous economic outlook? What do we deserve?