Wired for Workforce Equips Local Students for Success

Staff Report

Friday, April 12th, 2024

Ready to Work: High school seniors from Valdosta High School and Lowndes High School completed the Wired for Workforce program, a partnership between Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College.

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority hosted its third Wired for Workforce program from March 25 to 29 in collaboration with Wiregrass Georgia Technical College. 

During the five-day course, 14 seniors from Valdosta and Lowndes high schools honed their technical skills, received forklift safety training, and earned OSHA 10-hour General Industry Certification. New to this year's program was providing students with experience on a mobile aerial work platform, a crucial skill for industries in the Valdosta area.

"The Wired for Workforce program offers invaluable hands-on training that will translate into employment opportunities with our local industries," said Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority Executive Director Andrea Schruijer. "We aim to ensure that graduating high school students are equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in today's competitive job market." 

Michael Williams, vice president for Economic Development at Wiregrass Tech, emphasized that safety and forklift training are essential employability skills. "Employers are impressed that the students want to participate in the program. It shows a willingness to learn and a heartfelt desire to participate in manufacturing.”

He added that safety is a key component in any manufacturing environment. “Having an entry-level employee coming into an operator position with OSHA credentials is a major boon to all manufacturers in the region,” noting that these skills align with the region's workforce needs.

The program included a tour of Wiregrass Tech, where students gained insights into various industrial programs available to them. Additionally, they had the chance to engage in mock interviews with local companies, such as Cargill, Packaging Corporation of America, Sunset Farm Foods, and GAF. They also received guidance in resume writing along the way. 

Joshua Whittington, executive director for Economic Development at Wiregrass Tech, guided the student tours and said, “Students must understand that these technical programs exist and lead to fulfilling careers. Each of the programs we stopped at during our tour will lead to workforce positions that are vital for our community's quality of life.” 

Sponsored lunch sessions, courtesy of Cargill, Langdale Industries, Packaging Corporation of America, and ACE Electric, allowed students to connect with industry professionals and gain insights into local manufacturing careers. 

Wired for Workforce provides an excellent opportunity to introduce Wiregrass Tech's expansive industry programs and degree options.

"Many of these students will hopefully continue their training after Wired for Workforce," Williams said. "Even those who immediately get jobs in the industrial sector might be interested to find that Wiregrass offers online, evening, and day classes in our industrial programs. They could potentially work as full-time employees and part-time students through our apprenticeship program and prepare themselves for a lifelong and lucrative career in manufacturing." 

He added that students participating in Wired for Workforce and other industry-ready classes can receive Prior Learning Application opportunities that translate into credit for industrial programs.