The head of the Technical College System of Georgia says a strong workforce is essential for a strong community.
Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson was the keynote speaker at Thursday’s Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet of the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center.
Jackson spoke about the importance of a community’s workforce and the Technical College System’s role in helping to fill that workforce.
He said the education level of a community speaks directly to the quality of its workforce in the eyes of industry.
“For companies that look to locate and come to your community, if you have an adult population that does not have high school credentials, they believe you do not have a workforce that will work in their plants,” said Jackson. “They mark you off the list before you ever get considered. So, knowing what your workforce looks like is important to your recruitment of companies to do business here.”
Jackson said technical colleges must partner with the business community and the local K through 12 school system to help create a workforce that can compete in the global economy for the jobs of the 21st century.
He said the biggest change in that 21st century economy is the ever expanding role of technology.
“If you go to the Kia plant in West Point, Georgia and you realize in those automobiles that are put together, not one human hand touches a weld on that car, it is all done by robot,” said Jackson, who added that means the plant needs people who can fix robots.
With that in mind, Jackson said technical colleges in Georgia must stay ahead of where the marketplace for jobs and skills is heading in the future.
He said that means while technical colleges look very little like the trade schools of years ago.
“A welder that is welding today on that power plant over in east Georgia; those welders have a skill level and a requirement for certification that was not even dreamed about 20 to 30 years ago,” said Jackson. “So the types of training we provide, the equipment we must have to do that, makes us not your daddy’s trade school but your new trade school that trains people in 600 programs that are way beyond what we thought vocational education was when I was in school.”
Jackson also said that the Technical College System of Georgia appreciates the support of the General Assembly in working to increase funding and HOPE scholarship opportunities in order to help students using the technical colleges to advance their educations
The commissioner also reiterated the Technical College System’s support for North Georgia Tech and the Currahee Campus in Stephens County, saying he sees continued growth for both in the future.