I wasn’t born at Phoebe Putney Hospital. I didn’t start or spend my entire life in this community. However, I’ve lived here longer than I lived anywhere else. I’ve lived in Dougherty County for 26 of my 68 years. I am more at home in Albany than anywhere else I’ve been. We are a resilient community. I arrived during the recovery from the flood of 1994. I’ve experienced with you the flood of 1998, the tornados of 2018, Hurricane Michael, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our community has experienced plant closures while simultaneously adding manufacturing jobs. We’ve recovered and then thrived after each setback.
Unfortunately, our economic recovery has not been as resilient as our infrastructure recovery. Often, we are inappropriately recognized for the negative economic circumstance and not for our extremely high quality of life that some of us maintain. Too many of our citizens live below the poverty level. Too many are unemployed or underemployed. I don’t believe that any of us, including me, should complain unless we are willing to offer at least a partial solution; increasing workforce preparation substantially is my answer.
Albany Technical College offers PELL, HOPE, High School Dual Enrollment, Adult Education, Joint Enrollment, WIOA, and ATC Foundation Financial Aid. Those financial resources have aided thousands of South West Georgians to locate gainful employment with health insurance benefits. However, we still leave hundreds of jobs unfilled each year that require a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or degree.
Hurricane Michael’s devastation of South West Georgia ironically has provided us with another opportunity to prosper. We now have an additional option to make the progress needed to create regional prosperity and rebuild SW Georgia.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has presented the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and The Technical College System of Georgia with an opportunity to better fund workforce education. Albany Technical College and Southern Regional Technical College are prepared to provide the economic utility through workforce education. High school students from economically disadvantage families can leverage dual enrollment funds and earn a work force credential up to an associate’s degree. Students in programs that are not PELL eligible (such as CDL, Nurse Aide, and Basic EMT) can apply for funds through “Rebuild SW Georgia” and could be eligible for funding that will cover the cost of education. Books, uniforms, and tools will be provided. Students who are no longer PELL eligible may apply for “Rebuild SW Georgia” financial aid. Financial aid will be provided to qualified adult education students as well. Wrap around support services will be provided to make it more likely that students persist to graduation.