Wednesday, participants in the 2012-2013 Leadership Bartow Class looked at resources, challenges and opportunities for education in Bartow County.
A program of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Bartow examines the impact of various factors on business and the local economy. One day a month throughout the program year, participants tour sites and hear from professionals within the area of study.
This week, Leadership Bartow participants toured Chattahoochee Technical College’s North Metro Campus in Acworth, Cass High — Bartow County’s newest high school — and Georgia Highlands College, including the new student center. In addition, guest speakers from local and state educational systems spoke to the challenges and opportunities facing today’s students.
Chattahoochee Tech Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness John Parton was part of the steering committee in charge of organizing Wednesday’s itinerary.
“When we first sat down, we kept in mind, of course, the program’s theme, Enhancing Our Future, and the role education plays in economic development. A lot of the things that came to mind were the things that keep people from achieving a good education, things ranging from teen pregnancy to high unemployment rates, then we looked at the effects,” Parton said. “I think awareness is the main goal, letting leaders in this county know what’s out there in terms of resources. And it’s not just the high school and the infrastructure you can see, but it’s a support system that you can’t see — whether it’s the homeless liaison or the schools foundationsupplyinggrants for teachers.”
Addressing underlying problems affecting the county’s employable workforce included an emphasis on technical education. Across the nation, employers are facing a skills gap between the jobs ready to be filled and the available labor pool. Technical educators are up against a cultural mindset pushing all students toward a four-year college degree while skilled-labor positions are going unfilled.
“I think most of those in our Leadership Bartow class are college graduates and many of us followed that traditional pattern — graduating high school, going into college immediately as a traditional student, then graduating and beginning our career. But there are many that don’t follow that path or they’ve been laid off or maybe they need retraining,” Parton said. “That’s why we placed an emphasis on technical education.”
Georgia Power Plant Bowen Project Relocation Coordinator Janet Queen is a current Leadership Bartow participant on the team organizing Wednesday’s event. She also serves on the Bartow County College and Career Academy Board of Directors, a proposed charter facility with programs to help high school students train in technical vocation before they graduate.
“Right now, these skilled-trade jobs, that’s where the market’s at. The sad thing is, you’re finding college graduates that can’t get a job and they have student-loan debt to pay off after attaining their four-year degree,” Queen said. “But if a student decides they want to train in a skilled, technical area — let’s say welding for example, every one of our presenters stressed that there is a shortage of workers in the field of welding. I think once we educate the students and the parents, students would be encouraged to pursue a technical certification. Right now, that’s what is going to make them marketable in today’s workforce.”
Panel discussions also spoke to the areas of education from early childhood through high school and how each area is responding to recent budget cuts. A panel hosted at Cass High School included views from a homeschool educator, Woodland High’s coordinator of work-based learning and Chattahoochee Tech’s director of adult education.
Guest speaker, Tricia Pridemore, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, also spoke Wednesday to the need for skilled labor in Georgia. Currently, her office is promoting skilled-labor industries, such as welding, carpentry, plumbing, masonry and truck driving, through the Go Build Georgia program. For more information on this initiative, visit www.gobuildgeorgia.com.
“I think sometimes we take for granted that we are so blessed in our educational resources in Bartow County. To have a technical college and Georgia Highlands and all our high schools and other resources, we have so many opportunities for students in Bartow County to receive a quality education,” Queen said. “We wanted to showcase opportunities from a technical aspect. We wanted to be able to show the opportunities there. I think everyone got a real eye-opener when we went through Chattahoochee Tech’s diesel/automotive area and then the health and cosmetology programs.
“We have so many resources and I think it all sort of tied together when we talked to Tricia Pridemore because she talked about workforce development and she put our educational resources into perspective.”