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State leaders open career opportunities for students
0424work 6
Raul Guerrero, a Johnson High School senior, works afternoons at Baldor Electric in Flowery Branch as part of the Hall County Schools’ work-based learning progra - photo by NAT GURLEY

There’s a gap between the number of skilled trade professionals leaving career fields and the number of promising youth ready to take the reins.

That message was brought home for Hall County school officials Wednesday, when representatives from the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development visited, promoting the Go Build Georgia program.

“The governor has tasked us to focus on the skilled trade gap,” Deputy Commissioner Ben Hames said. “For every four professionals leaving the skilled trades, we have one person to take their place.”

Go Build Georgia encourages students to find careers in trade industries, like energy, manufacturing, industrial construction, telecommunications and transportation.

“You’re speaking our language,” Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said during a meeting with Hames at East Hall High School. “We have a tremendous policy disconnect in this country between what the workforce of 2020 is demanding and what we’re training children for.”

He said too many students think the only option for them after high school is college, while in reality students need to focus on overall continuing education. whether with a four-year college or focused more on technical skills training.

One method is to expose more students to on-site job training, whether it’s through Go Build Georgia or the overall work-based learning program through the schools.

Mike Holman, plant manager with Baldor Electric Co., employs two Johnson High School students through the work-based learning program.

“I started as a high school student here,” said Holman, a Johnson High graduate himself. “It was my first opportunity to actually get out in the world and work.”

He said the program is perfect for students who enjoy working with their hands, and may or may not want to attend college. One of the students, Jamison Owens, plans to take what he has learned through Baldor and attend Southern Polytechnic State University, merging with Kennesaw State University, in the fall.

The second student-employee, Raul Guerrero, is expected to continue working with Baldor, though he said he hopes to also attend Lanier Technical College.

Georgia high schools’ work-based learning programs have undergone a bit of a makeover recently from the state level. Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 766 on Monday in Dalton, effectively making it easier for students and employers to connect and develop relationships.

The new law replaces the Youth Apprenticeship Program.

“One of the provisions that was in our old law was that the apprenticeships had to be paid on a progressive wage scale,” said Dwayne Hobbs, program manager of the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education program with the Georgia Department of Education. “When it gets right down to discussion about the educational process and (what is) the purpose of this ... the question becomes, why is being paid even a factor?”

Hobbs said the former law also required 2,000 on-site hours, while the new law leaves the amount of time required up to each supervisor.

“Our goal is to set that number at 720 (hours), which we think is a fair number representative to what other states are doing,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs said the work-based learning programs through the Department of Education go hand-in-hand with Go Build Georgia.

Along with East Hall High, the Go Build team visited with West Hall and Johnson high schools. A chapter is already established at West Hall, but Hames said he wanted to expand the program to more schools.

Whether it’s through Go Build Georgia or the more general work-based learning, signing more students up for career experiences in an idea Holman encourages local employers to embrace.

“I don’t know who benefits more: us or the students,” Holman said. “The two guys I’ve got are just exceptional. They hit the ground running.”