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Chattahoochee Tech Appalachian Campus

‘Need for skilled workers set to skyrocket’

By Cynthia Smith This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

At a time when university costs continue to rise and graduates find themselves deeply in debt, thousands of high-paying jobs go unfilled. They are often the skilled trades jobs like electrician, auto repair expert, healthcare professional and computer technician.

For years, we as a nation have prized the four-year university model of higher education. Now, however, it’s becoming apparent that traditional college isn’t the only way to go and possibly not the best for someone who wants to keep costs down and jump right into a good-paying job. And, just like that, trade school is cool.

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CTC Graduate Rachel Gondek

Quality training in our own backyard

Chattahoochee Technical College (CTC) serves six counties on eight campuses. The Appalachian campus, as the Jasper location is known, offers general education courses as well as programs in automotive collision repair, business administrative technology, medical assisting, automotive technology, cosmetology and—the most recent addition—carpentry. Many additional programs are available at the other system sites.

The Jasper location began as Pickens Area Vocational-Technical School with nine areas of study in 1967. In 1988, the school’s name was changed to Pickens Technical Institute when it became part of the Georgia Department of Technical Adult Education. Then, in 1999, the name became Appalachian Technical College, as part of the Technical College System of Georgia. Finally, in 2009, the school fully merged into Chattahoochee Technical College and is now known as the Appalachian Campus of the eight-site college.

Keeping pace with employers’ needs

One of the most popular courses at the Appalachian campus is welding and joining technology. Instructor Jordan Hunter told of young welders who graduate and immediately secure $20-per-hour jobs. While manual welding is taught at CTC and still widely used, a new robotic welding arm was recently installed for students to begin learning the latest technology in the field. “Robotics is where this field is headed,” said Hunter, “and we want to always be looking to the future.”

As older workers retire and vocational programs have dropped from high school course lists, the need for skilled workers is set to skyrocket. Global staffing firm Manpower Group reported in its 2017 U.S. Talent Shortage Survey that skilled trade vacancies are the hardest jobs to fill in the country. While the perception is often that these jobs do not pay well, a construction manager can expect to make upwards of $50 per hour according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2017).

Coming attractions at Jasper campus

On the horizon for the CTC Appalachian campus is a course called Computer Information Systems technology which is related to cyber security. CIST, as the course is abbreviated, will be offered beginning in the fall of 2019. Less than a year from now students will begin training for careers as licensed practical nurses at the Appalachian campus. The LPN program is set to train its first students in January 2020.

While most classes are held in traditional fashion, the Appalachian campus boasts two classrooms with high-tech equipment that allows students in Jasper to attend sessions with a teacher in Marietta or other CTC sites. Day, evening and weekend classes are available as well as those that are partially or completely online.

CTC offers certificate programs as well as diplomas and degrees. Courses to enhance current skills are available as well, so a student’s time to complete coursework varies depending on the goal. A certificate program can be as short as eight weeks or as long as a year while an associate degree takes around two years.

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Chatt Tech student practices welding

Something for everyone

Dual enrollment for high schoolers allows students to earn college credit at CTC in a wide variety of subjects. English, college algebra, psychology, sociology, history, biology and economics are just a few of the 27 transferable college-credit classes high-schoolers can take for free. Since CTC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges, students can be confident that their credits will transfer to other Georgia colleges and universities.

Vice President David Simmons would like the community to be aware that CTC offers courses for college as well as trades, dual enrollment for high-schoolers and free GED classes with a dedicated GED laboratory. “Chattahoochee Tech is a great launching pad,” he said, “for any student.”

CTC has a reputation for supporting the educational efforts of military veterans. The system was ranked number five in the nation for large community colleges of the 2019-2020 Military Friendly Schools list for its efforts to support military service members and military service family members enrolled at the college.

Student-centered support

The Student Success Center offers help with registration, tutoring and other academic concerns. There is a counselor on staff to assist students as well. Chattahoochee Tech College Director of Counseling Cheri Mattox-Carroll has recently been named Counselor of the Year by the Georgia Counseling Association.

Most CTC students qualify for some sort of financial aid and scholarships are available to those who meet certain criteria. The HOPE Career Grant is offered to students who go into specific fields and, in some cases, covers 100 percent of the tuition costs of technical college. Marketing/PR Coordinator Anita Mashburn pointed out that many students leave their training at CTC with no college debt at all. “We offer high-quality, affordable education for in-demand fields,” she said, “Students leave here and step right into well-paying jobs.”

Chattahoochee Tech part of local community

The Appalachian campus strives to be a good neighbor to Pickens County. The campus Education Center is a large meeting space that holds up to 950 people and can be easily subdivided for smaller groups. Pickens High School holds its annual prom there and many a sports banquet has been hosted with food prepared in the state-of-the-art commercial kitchen. The Rotary Club of Jasper and Pickens County Chamber of Commerce meet regularly in the space and the annual Holiday Market and Taste of Pickens utilize the area as well.

A walk through the Appalachian campus yields some surprises not seen when whizzing past the modern facade. High-tech computer labs, hospital beds with mannequins for student practice and a student-designed common area are just a few of the campus features within. And there’s always more to come as the system strives to prepare students for anticipated employment vacancies. Said Hunter, “The sky’s the limit!”

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