Athens Technical College’s branch in Monroe provides a link between school and the growing number of industries in Walton County and the surrounding area. Here, Executive Director Lenzy Reid talks about how the school equips the area’s workforce and what skills are in demand in this part of the world.
Walton Tribune: What are the advantages of a technical degree over a traditional 4-year college degree? Is the number of students seeking technical degrees in this region growing, declining, or holding even?
Lenzy Reid: The Technical College System of Georgia and more specifically for this region, Athens Technical College focuses on workforce development. One key advantage of a technical education is graduates are prepared to work in industries within the region. We have close partnerships with companies who sit on our advisory committees in developing and teaching relevant skills and standards. A technical education provides graduates with the needed hands on training to be workforce ready upon graduation.
The number of students seeking technical degrees is increasing. This is evident in Athens Technical College’s ten semesters of enrollment increase. The community is beginning to see the educational and financial benefits of a credential from Athens Technical College. They are seeing that this is not your parents’ or grandparents’ vocational school.
WT: In what areas do you think Athens Tech in Walton County does the best job of preparing its students for future careers?
LR: All of Athens Technical College’s four campuses focuses on student development and properly preparing students for their careers. We continually work with community and industry leadership to ensure the skills taught are up-to-date and do in fact translate to careers upon graduation. As technology changes, so do we. Again using those within industry, we make sure students are learning on the actual equipment they will be using in their jobs. A little known fact is that 100% of our graduates are warranted. If for any reason an employer feels a graduate did not quite grasp a concept, that graduate may come back to the College and study that skill-set again at no charge to the company or graduate.
WT: What kinds of careers are most in demand from industries around the Walton County area?
LR: Athens Technical College’s Walton Campus has several programs available; Commercial Truck Driving, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Emerging Technologies, Industrial Systems, and Precision Machining and Manufacturing. Also offered are general education and adult education courses. Each of these programs has been strategically selected as they are those most in-demand careers within the area. With the push for more technology and science companies, we are working locally to understand how the College can help meet the need for a strategically educated workforce.
WT: How is Athens Tech trying to work together with high schools and industries?
LR: Athens Technical College is working with the School District through the Dual Enrollment program. Under Dual Enrollment, students may take academic core courses that can transfer to other technical colleges or USG colleges and universities. Students may also take occupational and career courses that can help jump start a career. This program is offered at no cost to the parents or students.
Athens Technical College is in constant communication with the industries. The College’s program’s advisory committees meet quarterly to better understand shifts in industry and any new industry standards that may occur. Also, we have local residents on the College and Foundation Boards.
WT: What career field do you think will see the most growth in the Walton County area in the next 5-10 years?
LR: As with most industries, we are seeing tremendous growth in the technology and science field. In the next 5 – 10 years, Walton County will have been a go-to location for both science and technology development. There will be new larger facilities based in science and technology industry, but also smaller business looking to capture the local talent which has been developed through the Walton County school system and Athens Technical College.