Wiregrass Working to Help Local Industries Close the Skills Gap

Staff Report From Valdosta CEO

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

According to recent reports, by 2030 there will be 79 million retirees in what is considered the skilled trade industries.   Those same reports are predicting that there will only be 41 million new workers entering the workforce. The average age of a skilled worker in the United States is 56 and while they have many years of their career ahead, as a nation we only have a few years to reverse the current trend in education.

A recent survey on hiring trends reports that 33 percent of employers have unfilled job openings due to a lack of a qualified workforce.  That workforce they are looking for is one with the knowledge of a skilled trade.  And yet, there are fewer and fewer people seeking training in a skilled trade field.

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College is looking for ways to reverse this trend and to provide a skilled workforce in the areas of skilled trades.  These trades include machine tool technology, industrial systems, electrical systems, welding, air conditioning technicians, telecommunications technicians, and construction management just to name a few.  According to report conducted by the Harvard Business School, 27 percent of trained skilled professionals earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient.

Travis Lewis with Lewis Machining and Engineering, reports that finding a skilled employee is becoming more difficult. “As we continue to expand our national customer base, we will be adding to our production base leading to a need for more skilled employees. Having a pool of graduates from Wiregrass in the skilled trade areas such as machine tool will be vital,” stated Travis.  

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College currently offers diploma and associate degree programs, along with some technical certificates in nine technical and industrial trade areas. These programs, including machine tool technology, boast job placement percentage rates in the nineties.  Average starting pay for many fields in manufacturing and commercial construction can be in the mid-40s according to labor statistics.  The college is working to increase the attraction of skilled trade programs in several ways including holding a Careers In Construction and Engineering Fair. The second annual event will take place in October of 2013 and showcase the potential for careers in these fields.

Roy Warren, Dean of the Technical and Industrial programs stated, “In talking with many employers in the region, one comment that seems to surface the most is the concern over a lack of a skilled workforce in these technical and industrial areas, and the problem it creates with filling positions from attrition and to the inability to grow their businesses”.   Wiregrass technical and industrial programs offer a diverse course schedule that makes it possible for a student to work during the day and obtain a new skill set and career path in the afternoons and evenings.  For a complete listing of technical and industrial programs offered by Wiregrass Georgia Technical College visit www.wiregrass.edu