Henry Davis teared up Wednesday morning talking about his son, who after trying four-year college for six years, finally found his place at a technical college studying culinary arts.
Davis, operations manager for Dahlonega-based PolyPortables, was one in a group of business, education and government leaders who participated in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., on job creation and workforce development. The event was held at Lanier Technical College’s Oakwood campus
Davis’ son is now a head chef at a restaurant.
"He found his passion," Davis said. "I do get a little emotional about it. He’s found it. So many of our youth miss the point of they need to find their passion. They don’t need to find a job. They don’t need to find a career. They don’t have to have a college degree. They’ve got to find that passion."
Collins listened to opinions and personal stories as he discussed the role the state’s technical colleges play in creating the workforce that businesses in Hall County need now and in the future. Lanier Tech was the first stop out of three technical school campuses he planned to visit Wednesday. He was also scheduled stops in Athens and Clarkesville. Some people are a better fit for technical college, he said.
"These are the kinds of programs that make a difference," Collins said. "This is a bridge between a gap that is missing."
Collins said he believes in giving a step up and an opportunity to work. Georgia’s going to be well-positioned to attract businesses to the state and create jobs because of the foundation it has laid.
"We’re laying that fertile ground," he said. "Life is an open-ended question, not a closed-end statement."
One topic discussed was the Technical College System of Georgia’s dual enrollment programs. Dual enrollment allows high school students to earn college and high school credit at the same time.
Dual families of high school juniors and seniors pay a fraction of the expense because, in most cases, state funds will pay for the cost of the college tuition.
"We are changing lives for the better," said Linda Barrow, Lanier Tech vice president of academic affairs. "That gets me up and gets me going every single day."
Shelley Davis, vice president of existing industries for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said she’s visited many local manufacturing facilities and said the plants of today are far different than in the past. There’s jobs in that industry for a lot of people who are really smart, but don’t want to sit behind a desk.
"They are not dirty, yucky hot places," she said. "They’re air-conditioned places where people are using high skills that they learn at places like Lanier Tech."
Several manufacturers, including SKF USA Inc., attended the forum. Those companies find customized training at Lanier Tech helpful to get employees up to speed on new skills, Davis said.
"It’s that changing environment from the manual to the computer, which requires a very literate workforce," Collins said.
Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the chamber, said major local industries include health care, manufacturing and producing goods and other services.
Lanier Tech student Yate Tripp said she’s studying business management at Lanier Tech. She wants to start her own business doing catering and flower arrangements.
The forum really helped her, she said.
"I want to share with the community what I have learned," Tripp said after the event. "My creativity, things that I love to do, the passion I have for it."