What happens when there are more jobs than qualified people to fill them?

That is a critical issue for many Georgia communities and one that the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government is working to address.

Recent one-day conferences in Gwinnett and Tift counties, organized by the Vinson Institute, drew hundreds of attendees. Among them were representatives of k-12 schools, postsecondary institutions, businesses and economic development professionals from across the state.

“Economic development across Georgia is one of our highest priorities at the University of Georgia,” Jennifer Frum, vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach, said in welcoming participants to the Innovating Georgia’s Workforce Pipeline conference at the UGA Gwinnett campus. “How we all prepare the rising generation for the workforce is of utmost importance.”

Much of Georgia’s problem stems from a mismatch in skills that employees possess and openings that business need to fill. One longer term solution to this problem is working with students in the workforce pipeline to make them aware of in-demand positions and the pathway to get there.

Georgia school systems now have access to a resource to assess middle school student aptitude and interest for a certain field, said Dawn Mann, program manager for career guidance and counseling at the Georgia Department of Education (DOE). The results help them guide students along their paths to graduation and into careers.

A similar assessment has been offered to Georgia high school students for several years now and the results show that 92 percent of female students had an aptitude for engineering. But only 35 percent were interested in that field of work.

“Students are interested in careers they know about,” Mann said. “This is information that can change the game.”

An attendee speaks at the Innovating Georgia's Workforce Pipeline Conference

In 2017, the Paulding County College and Career Academy (CCA) began a High Demand Career Day to help students who were unsure about their plans after graduation. Results from a survey of students’ aptitude and interests are used to carefully curate a day full of opportunities to connect them with postsecondary options at local institutions or employment with area businesses.

“We had people who joined the workforce right after graduation because of that event,” said Marores Perry, CEO of the Paulding CCA .

It’s imperative to help students and their parents know what jobs are available, and the skills required for those jobs, said Katy Castanien, with the Spalding-Griffin County College and Career Academy (CCA). The Spalding-Griffin CCA launched an innovative “Made in the Region” program to help educate parents about advanced manufacturing careers and other opportunities that are in their backyard.

“Parents don’t understand that these are great STEM careers,” Castanien said. “Going into manufacturing is not a dead end job. There are lots of opportunities.”

Already, the partnerships between k-12 schools, post-secondary institutions and businesses are helping address the state’s workforce deficit.

In the Fall of 2018, Georgia Power became one of the first businesses to use YouScience results in order to recruit students with a high aptitude in energy and utility related skills. They invited students to come out and learn more about what a day in the life at Georgia Power would look like in many of the high demand, skilled labor roles.

As a result of the event, 11 students were offered Georgia Power Summer internships and seven other internships were offered through other sources. The company is now providing scholarship support for five of the students pursuing an Electrical Lineworker Apprentice Certification (ELAC) through South Georgia Technical College, said Brooke Perez, community and economic development manager for Georgia Power.

“We know that workforce development plays a critical role in our community’s economic development success, said Greg Wilson, a public service associate in workforce development at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “Over the past five years, the Institute of Government has had the opportunity to partner with state agencies, workforce development boards, communities, and other organizations as they seek to strengthen their workforce efforts. The conference builds upon this work and seeks to strengthen the workforce ecosystem. We look forward to facilitating future conversations and building more connections among workforce development professionals.”


WRITER

Kelly Simmons Director of Communications

simmonsk@uga.edu • 706-542-2512