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Celebrating National Manufacturing Week —why Georgia is ahead of the curve

HCCA manufacturing students enrolled in Industrial Maintenance and Welding pathways. The students, their instructors and Principal Phelps enjoyed a tour of Northrop Grumman on Oct. 4 in celebration of Manufacturing Week.
HCCA manufacturing students enrolled in Industrial Maintenance and Welding pathways. The students, their instructors and Principal Phelps enjoyed a tour of Northrop Grumman on Oct. 4 in celebration of Manufacturing Week.

What if I told you there is a job right here in our community that could pay you, on average, $20,000 more than similar professions? What if I told you this same job market experienced 35 percent growth in new employment opportunities over the past five years? Would you believe me if I told you these jobs are found right here in the manufacturing sector of Georgia’s economy?

This skilled trade has long been a pillar of our state and national economies, an industry that is essential to the sustained growth of Georgia and the United States. One generation ago, there was a commitment to educate and employ workers in an area full of rewarding and lifetime career opportunities. However, with our modern and evolving economy, many of these companies face a skilled labor shortage and are unable to find employees with appropriate training.

This week we celebrate National Manufacturing Week to recognize the importance of this work and our efforts to address these work force needs. Thankfully, our community is ahead of the curve — we have embraced new education and apprenticeship models to do just that.

The idea of a college and career academy was born with the belief that every student in Georgia deserves an individualized learning plan, one that empowers them to be career ready upon graduation.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle began this unique network of learning institutions in 2007 to develop the next generation of well-rounded employees. He has long argued that education drives the economy and it was this conviction that led him to bring together school systems, the Technical College System of Georgia and local business/industry leaders to create a new education model just like the one we have right here in Houston County.

Our academy is now one of 40 throughout the state that is delivering innovative educational pathways to Georgia’s students. From industrial maintenance, welding and electronics, our academy board is working with Central Georgia Technical College to design curriculums around the specific needs of our community.

One special need we are actively working to address is the void in Georgia manufacturing. We are doing this through our many pathways designed to create a diverse and thriving pipeline of talent for companies who call Georgia home.

Unfortunately, some school systems have lost sight of the importance of vocational training. Yet, thanks to the vision of Lt. Gov. Cagle, communities like ours is now an epicenter of education and career preparation — with a renewed focus on raising the bar for our students on their path to professional success. Over the past 10 years, we have seen great results from this new model of learning — one that embraces innovation and abandons the one-size-fits-all mentality that held students back for far too long.

Together, we have laid the foundation for a diverse and competitive work force unlike anything this state has seen before. The results have been amazing, with thousands of students graduating career ready with high school diplomas and certifications. Many choose to go on to further education while others enter the work force. Yet, there is still much to be done.

We will continue to modernize and provide new and valuable opportunities for each student in our community, working hand in hand with our board of education, Technical College System of Georgia and local business leaders.

During this week, let us celebrate the importance of manufacturing in our community while we continue to develop the next generation of leaders who will ensure this sector of our economy thrives for generations to come.

Sabrina C. Phelps, is principal of the Houston County Career Academy, the Georgia 2015 Career Academy of the Year.

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