The tour, which kicked off Feb. 7, was designed to inform educators and business about the skills gap that has created a critical shortage of qualified candidates for the skilled trades. From welders to truck drivers and electricians to pipefitters, there are currently fewer people qualified to fill those positions than there are people retiring from them.
“We are producing one replacement for every four trades people who retire,” said Tricia Pridemore, executive director of Governor Nathan Deal's Office of Workforce Development. “Currently 49 percent of the skilled trade workforce is classified as Baby Boomers—age 47-65.”
However, the challenge will be convincing graduating high school students and others looking for a career that the skilled trades offer opportunity, Pridemore added. So this March the campaign really kicks off with a media campaign through newspaper advertisements, radio commercials and other strategies to raise public awareness of Georgia’s need for carpenters, electricians, line workers, welders, machinists, truck drivers, masonry workers and all other skilled workers people can’t become just by going to college for four years.
Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, is partnering with Go Build Georgia and will serve as a spokesman in the advertising for the campaign. According to Pridemore, Rowe will be featured in a 30-minute public awareness special that will air across the state in March.
“All too often those technical skilled positions have been undervalued and gone unappreciated,” said Ron Jackson, Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner. “Even with unemployment at such a high level there are good paying, skilled trade jobs for the taking with the right education or training.”
Chatt Tech President Dr. Ron Newcomb said he was excited to see the passion behind getting the word out about these career paths as a way to develop a strong workforce for Georgia. He said business and industry leaders often approaches schools like Chattahoochee Tech looking for potential workers.
“I often hear that if they could just get more machinists, welders, drivers, or other employees, their businesses would expand and grow,” Newcomb told the crowd Monday. “We can offer these programs. We can develop the workforce they need. We just need the students to realize the potential they have in these fields.”
Newcomb said that Chatt Tech has been working with businesses for years to develop a skilled and educated workforce, offering more than 70 programs in areas ranging from business and healthcare to welding and air conditioning technology.
Additionally, the college has expanded its non-credit offerings to including certification in manufacturing, mining, crane operations and others. A newly developed non-credit welding program is slated to begin within the next few weeks at the North Metro Campus.
“Workforce development is what we’re about,” he said. “By educating students and preparing them for careers, we’re helping to retain and grow new business and industry. We have got to be a partner in closing the skills gap. We have to know that without closing it, we cannot grow as a state.”