HunterMaclean’s Inaugural Critical Issues Forum Featured in Brunswick News

October 4, 2012

Training Needed For Future Jobs

By Michael Hall

For the Brunswick News

Georgia must begin preparing for thousands of technical jobs that will be open in the coming years, the executive director of the Governor’s Workforce Development Office said Wednesday in Brunswick.

Tricia Pridemore said developing a work force to fill 82,000 skilled trade jobs in Georgia that the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development expects to be vacant in the next four years will depend heavily on educating parents and students about the benefits the jobs offer.

Pridemore was among speakers at HunterMaclean’s Critical Issues Forum held in the conference center at College of Coastal Georgia. Other speakers included Gary Colberg, president and chief executive of Southeast Georgia Health System, and Randal Morris, regional public affairs director for Georgia Pacific.

Parents and students have long considered a four-year college degree as the only avenue to a well paying job, Pridemore said. While jobs requiring a college degree will still be an integral piece of Georgia’s future economy, Pridemore said filling the swath of skilled labor jobs will be difficult if students do not begin considering those careers as viable options. Many of the jobs already exist, she said.

“Here in Georgia, we have job openings in the skilled trades,” Pridemore said. “Our goal is to dispel the stereotypes that are out there.”

Gov. Nathan Deal’s Go Build Georgia initiative, which launched in January, is a statewide effort to do just that, she said.

The initiative is designed to show students as early as eighth grade what a career in skilled labor is really like.

Pridemore said those jobs often pay more than $18 an hour and offer upward mobility.

Promoting those careers will not only create a pipeline of skilled workers for the work force but will also improve graduation rates.

“We have to make sure our students recognize there is opportunity for them on the other side of high school,” Pridemore said.

Opportunities include a variety of training options available in Glynn County, Morris told the crowd of more than 100 at the forum.

Since 2008, the addition of Altamaha Technical College to Glynn County, the transformation of the two-year Coastal Georgia Community College into the four-year College of Coastal Georgia, and the opening of the Golden Isles

Career Academy have improved the opportunities for quality job training, Morris said.

Georgia Pacific’s Brunswick Cellulose plant employs 600 workers and has to hire about 24 new people a year as longtime employees retire, Morris said.

Finding proper replacements is not always easy.

“It is often a challenge to find people who meet our criteria,” Morris said.

County and getting students to the career academy will be integral in meeting those needs, Morris said.

The technical school currently holds classes at the career academy. Gaps in work ethic, critical thinking skills and the ability to navigate an interview are often evident in applicants, he said.

Colberg has had similar problems finding the right people for the staff at Southeast Georgia Health System. Having a pipeline of well-trained nurses from programs at College of Coastal Georgia and Altamaha Tech, hopefully, will help fill shortages of nurses, but operating a hospital takes more than that.

“We need plumbers. We need electricians,” Colberg said. “We have a 1 million-square-foot facility to maintain.”

Filling those jobs will require a change in mindset for many students.

“Let’s have our students be educated on the realities of the jobs,” Colberg said.

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