Technical Education for the Twenty-first Century
By Michael F. Vollmer, Commissioner, Department of Technical and Adult Education
Not long ago, if you mentioned technical education to someone, they would have had an image of a student learning a simple, routine trade, usually something involving grease and a wrench. Today, however, that image could not be further from reality. The programs that have been developed in our technical colleges in recent years have made that old stereotype as quaint and out-dated as black-and-white silent movies.
The old “shop class” is a thing of the past: today, the students at Georgia’s technical colleges are mastering sophisticated disciplines, studying in fully equipped classrooms and training in state-of-the-art labs. In the 21 st century, Georgia’s technical colleges have become a central part of our state’s educational system, and are critical to its economic development. Our system will be responsible for building Georgia’s future workforce.
You can see these dramatic changes that have taken place by visiting the campus of your local technical college. The new buildings at Gwinnett Technical College, for example, reflect the investment the state has made in our system. In Gwinnett Tech’s classrooms, state-of-the-art equipment gives students hands-on experience in any of dozens of high-demand programs. And, more than likely, a Gwinnett Tech graduate has helped make your life in Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross, Duluth, Snellville or Buford, better by providing you with healthcare services, support for your computer network, or even interior design advice for your home.
In addition, our technical college system has evolved to become an important part of our state’s ability to attract industry and grow jobs. Since I became commissioner of the Department of Technical and Adult Education last fall, we have begun aggressively promoting a pro-active approach to addressing Georgia’s workforce training needs. We know that different regions of our state need different skill sets, so our colleges are developing programs to respond directly to those needs. Working with Governor Perdue’s Commission for a New Georgia, strategic industries are being identified that will expand Georgia’s job base and prosper in our communities. As we adapt our colleges to support these growing industries – heath care, transportation, life sciences, agriculture, aerospace, energy – we will be able to ensure that Georgians will be able to get the training they will need for the 21 st century workplace.
Also, our colleges are intimately engaged in their communities. Not only do our faculty and staff participate in everything from blood drives to church socials to United Way campaigns, but they work hand-in-hand with area businesses to make sure their employees get the up-to-date training they need so that those businesses can stay competitive in today’s global marketplace and keep their jobs in Georgia. And we are making an even greater effort to develop programs to support the new high-tech manufacturing that is part of the bedrock of our economy and lifestyle.
Perhaps most important, though, is the impact our colleges can have on the generation that right now is preparing to enter the marketplace. The opportunities available at our technical colleges need to become part of the everyday conversations these young people have among themselves when they talk about their dreams and aspirations. The option to attend a technical college needs to be on the table when you discuss career choices with your children. By making our middle and high school students aware that good, well-paying careers are waiting for them after studying at a technical college, we can increase their sense of confidence and hope, tap into their potential, and inspire them to stay in school. We hope to capture their interest through our programs in many high schools and instill them with the confidence they need to persevere and build a successful career.
It is through all these avenues that our technical college system is helping to build a better Georgia. Visit our technical colleges and what you’ll find there won’t be the old trade-school stereotype, but the key to Georgia’s prosperous future, and the economic engine of our state.
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About Gwinnett Tech
Gwinnett Technical College, one of Georgia's largest technical colleges, is committed to delivering relevant knowledge to meet the workforce training needs of its community. The college offers more than 50 associate degree, diploma and certificate programs and hundreds of seminars, workshops and courses providing specialized training. GTC is Gwinnett County's largest provider of corporate training and now serves residents and businesses in north Fulton County. Gwinnett Technical College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the associate degree. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097,404-679-4500, www.sacscoc.org for questions about the accreditation of Gwinnett Technical College. For more information, visit www.GwinnettTech.edu.
A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia.