Local leaders participate in developers panel
CARROLLTON — Local education and development leaders participated in a panel discussion at the 2016 Georgia Economic Developers Association Spring Workshop, held May 18-20 in Saint Simons.
Titled “Georgia’s Automotive Industry: A Snapshot of Success,” the panel session focused on the collaboration between industry and education to meet the needs of the automotive industry by providing and cultivating a robust workforce.
On the panel were Steve Cromer, West Georgia Technical College senior director for advanced manufacturing; Meghan Duke, city of West Point economic development director; Kathy Carlisle, CEO of THINC College and Career Academy; and Rick Walker, Georgia Automotive Manufacturing Association CEO.
Over the past few years, business and industry in Georgia has experienced a dramatic “skills gap” in its workforce, officials said. West Georgia Technical College officials said they have enhanced efforts to collaborate with local industry representatives in an effort to develop solutions that provide the skilled workers needed.
New technology has outpaced the current workforce, Cromer said. West Georgia Tech is working with industry leaders to provide opportunities for those workers to attend training on WGTC campuses.
“We are working with our industry partners to prepare the future workforce with the education and training that meets their standards, and we are developing training programs that will enhance the existing workforce at the same time,” Cromer said. “I personally meet with industry leaders every day to find out what their needs are and to ensure that our curriculum in the classroom and labs produce graduates that are ready to do the job from day one.”
Cromer fielded several questions from the audience, mostly about West Georgia Tech’s approach in its technology and trade programs.
“We have a bit of a different approach than other institutions might have,” Cromer said. “Our focus is more on lab interaction as opposed to spending the majority of the semester in the classroom environment.
“In the past, most programs would begin the semester by teaching theory in the classroom and then the remainder of the time would be spent in the labs applying what they learned. Now we teach the basics in the classroom and spend a lot more time in the lab, so the students end up using their critical thinking skills. It’s a more hands-on approach.”
West Georgia Tech President Steve G. Daniel said he has made collaboration with business and industry in the school’s seven-county service area a top priority.
“These collaborative efforts are beneficial to every stakeholder involved,” Daniel said. “Our students are better prepared as they enter the workforce, our local business and industry partners are able to hire individuals who are trained and ready to work, and our communities benefit from an economic development standpoint. It’s a win-win for everyone.
“West Georgia Tech is, and will continue to be, a leader in workforce development thanks to our relationships with our local business and industry partners.”
West Georgia Tech created the new position of senior director for advanced manufacturing in November. Cromer was hired to fill the role, which serves as a conduit between local companies and WGTC to develop workforce education strategies that fill skills gaps and develop future training partnerships.