‘Not your grandfather’s vo-tech’

 Georgia Piedmont Technical College President Jabari Simama delivered the 2017 State of the College Address on Feb. 23, discussing cutting-edge courses that will prepare students for tomorrow’s workforce. Photo by R. Scott Belzer


Georgia Piedmont Technical College offers cutting-edge courses

According to Georgia Piedmont Technical College President Jabari Simama, the DeKalb County school is leading the way in offering a platform for 21st century jobs in America.

“This is not your grandfather’s vo-tech,” Simama said. “Technical education, as the young folks say, is hot. It’s on fire. Today’s technical education requires advanced skill sets and technological know-how.”

For more than an hour on Feb. 23, community members and leaders joined Simama, staff, other faculty and students at GPTC for the school’s annual State of the College address.

Simama called GPTC the most diverse college in America—with students who speak 100 different languages from 80 different countries—and said it offers cutting-edge courses to its student body.

Six courses specifically mentioned by Simama include drone, film production, advanced man#ufacturing, 3D printing, cyber forensics as well as transit and transportation.

Simama said drones will be a $100 billion industry by 2020 with $13 billion coming from private businesses and local government. He said the school’s technical college certificate program, as well as non-credit courses, will provide GPTC students an edge in the industry.

“Drone [students] are tech-ed today at GPTC and a skilled workforce in tomorrow’s industry,” Simama said.

Georgia’s growing film industry is another area the college excels in readying students for, according to Simama. He said the school’s courses prepare students in the $6 billion industry, specifically for more than 5,000 jobs on the technical side of film making.

“Students who complete this program will go on to complete on-set internships on film and television sets,” Simama said.

Advanced manufacturing, according to Simama, involves what the nonprofit World Economic Foum calls a fourth industrial revolution involving digital and mobile platforms reliant upon human connectivity. He said GPTC strives to tap into this revolution through apprenticeships and partnerships with chambers of commerce, public education and participating companies.

“Advanced manufacturing involves extensive use of the latest generation in technology to make something better and it needs skilled people to operate this technology,” Simama said.

“To meet the demands, we’re starting a German-style apprenticeship where high school students take tech ed courses part of the day and work in related businesses the other part of the day.”

Simama announced GPTC will be launching its first 3D-printing course, where students will learn to create physical objects from a virtual model.

“Students will leave this course knowing how to convert plans and specs into 3D models,” Simama said. “This will be a game-changer in industry and helping our economy.”

Simama said cyber security will be one of the most important industries in the near future and that GPTC is already training students to meet such a demand.

Simama said he was excited to announce GPTC is currently working on plans to develop a regional transportation training center, complete with simulators and hands-on laboratories for students hoping to become truck drivers, manufacturers of fiber optics, driverless cars, alternative fuels and more.

“The transit and transportation industry is one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing sectors in the world,” Simama said. “This industry straddles the digital-industrial world in which we live. For 30 years, GPTC has developed the curriculum and teaching methods that prepare workers for this industry.”

Simama called technical education, with courses costing approximately $89 per credit hour, the best poverty-fighting program available today.

“We move people through an educational and training program that can help move them to the middle class,” Simama said. “Tech ed is accessible; it’s a gateway. Georgia’s technical colleges are among the best value in the education marketplace.”

GPTC seems to be successful in such an endeavor, Simama said, with a 74 percent graduation rate and 99 percent employment rate.

“Most four-year colleges wish they had these numbers,” he said. “The state of our college is exceptional. We are reinventing technical education to address the workforce needs of today—and tomorrow.”

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