Monthly Column October 2017
Dalton State’s Role in Workforce Development
Workforce Development is the hot phrase in higher education today and for good reason. In recent years, the world has been turned upside down in so many ways. The economies of our region, state, and country were impacted greatly in the most recent recession. Companies that have remained in operation have had to reinvent themselves to be competitive in this environment. Employees have had to re-train and reconsider their career options as job opportunities and the required job skills shift.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, Dalton State College yielded our technical college programs to our sister institution, Georgia Northwestern Technical College. Although I cannot take credit for this decision, I admire the wisdom and courage for this change. We are still recovering from the decline in enrollment, but this change ensures that the workforce needs of this community and region are better served, and it allows Dalton State to focus on what we do best: providing baccalaureate degree programs to students and preparing students for transfer to institutions that offer degree programs we do not offer, such as engineering and graduate programs.
Since this change, the relationship between Dalton State and Georgia Northwestern has blossomed, and we are becoming strong partners in public post-secondary education for Northwest Georgia. Georgia Northwestern is designed to serve the educational needs for students entering career programs that can be accomplished within a few months. Dalton State can, therefore, focus on providing the educational credentials needed for future employees who require more than a certificate or associate degree. Neither of us can single-handedly produce graduates in every career field needed by this community, but together we are preparing the future workforce of this region. We are even partnering to produce some “stacked credentials” which allow students to earn a credential, begin working, then return to college to obtain additional knowledge, and advance in the same career field.
As a reminder of some of the workforce needs addressed by Dalton State, our School of Education prepares future elementary school and high school teachers for this region. Last year we graduated approximately 75 credentialed teachers most of whom are already employed in area elementary, middle, and high schools. We also prepare future business leaders for this community through our Wright School of Business in fields such as accounting, marketing, finance and applied economics, and now logistics and supply chain management.
Our Science, Technology and Mathematics School works with local companies to ensure that our chemistry, biology, mathematics, scientific technology, and technology management students are prepared to fill the jobs needed by local employers. The Regents’ Engineering Pathways Program allows students interested in engineering careers to complete their first two years of college close to home and then earn an engineering degree from either Georgia Southern University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University, Mercer University, or the University of Georgia. This program is an excellent fit for families of students who want a career in engineering and are interested in saving money on tuition, attending a small school, or simply living at home for the first few years of college.
Our School of Health Professions is producing much-needed employees in healthcare fields such as nursing, respiratory therapy, and radiologic technology. It seems every time I visit Hamilton Medical Center or one of our local physicians’ offices, I encounter a Dalton State graduate. We also produce graduates in critical fields that are often forgotten such as communication, social work, and criminal justice. Our graduates are occupying a variety of first responder employment roles in this region.
This is not a complete list of all the Dalton State degree programs, but I hope it illustrates the breadth of the workforce needs we are addressing. We graduated 827 students during the 2016-2017 academic year, and a significant number of those students will remain in Northwest Georgia to raise their families and serve the needs of this region through their places of employment and their contributions outside of their employment to their communities.
We just completed a year of celebration and reflection on our 50 years of serving Northwest Georgia’s public post-secondary educational needs. We reflected on the evolution of the college that began as Dalton Junior College and today is one of the most affordable four-year colleges in the nation. Our degree programs have transitioned with the needs of the region, and we will continue to work closely with our technical college partner and the businesses in this region to ensure that our courses and degree offerings address the needs of our employers.
Workforce Development may be a hot phrase or even a cliché today in higher education, but it is cited so frequently because of the increased need for people who can fill the employment requirements of every community in this country both today and in the years to come. Dalton State College intends to remain at the forefront of this work as we proceed into the next 50 years.