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  ·   By Martha Dalton, All Things Considered   ·  Link to Article

Education Forum: Georgia's Workforce Could Face A Talent Gap

Georgia's workforce could face a talent gap unless it expands its career education programs and finds a way to keep college graduates in the state. That was the message at a critical issues forum held by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education this week.

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Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark said 53 percent of the state’s counties are economically distressed, compared with 20 percent nationwide.

Clark said some regions, especially in Georgia’s rural areas, fell behind during the economic downturn.

“It’s really all about talent now, and many of our communities didn’t keep up,” he said. “They didn’t make sure they had great schools. They didn’t make sure their colleges continued to do well. And one thing they did is they let all of their kids move away and never come back home.”

Clark said colleges could keep students in the state after graduation by making them aware of job opportunities.

Michael Kenig, vice chairman of Holder Construction Company, was a panelist at the forum. He said businesses could also benefit by strengthening their relationships with high school career education programs.

“The lesson for our industry is to take ownership of our pipeline,” Holder said. “One thing we did in the construction industry was to push a model called 'Adopt a School,' but basically, just go to the school in your own backyard and go meet the instructor, find out if they have a construction pathway, find out what you can do to support that.”

Cassandra Miller-Washington was also on the panel. She’s the CEO of Hutchings College and Career Academy and the executive director for Bibb County’s career technical and agricultural education department. She said school systems also need to show local businesses that they’re committed to career education.

“It’s imperative that all stakeholders are at the table when you’re talking to business and industry – the counselor, teachers, principals, superintendents – because that’s how you change the school system,” Miller-Washington said. “That’s how you really get the school system to become a collaborative partner with industry.”

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