The dedication ceremony was 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Rockmart campus of Coosa Valley Technical College. Over the previous three months, the electric utility company transformed a little used wing of the campus into its new Georgia Power Technical Education Center.
Formerly, Building C was home to welding classes and also a heating/air conditioning program. But those courses had relocated to the Rome CVTC campus. That building now houses the Plant Bowen Simulator room, a computer lab, an electrical lab and other Georgia Power training rooms.
CVTC President Craig McDaniel said the wing was under-used and Georgia Power's investment "is a much better utilization of this facility."
The new training center also makes use of Building D, which houses the center’s mechanical lab.
The center is a partnership between CVTC, Georgia Power and Southern Company, the utility provider's parent company, and vendors.
Georgia Power invested $1.2 million to modify two buildings at CVTC and to purchase training equipment. In addition, 27 of Southern Company's vendors contributed equipment with an approximate value of $840,000.
The result is an unparalled, state-of-the-art training facility, said Doug Jones, senior vice president, Georgia Power. Employees of Georgia Power electric generating plants can come into a lab at the center and conduct "real world simulations" on the same kind of equipment and the same management software that they use in their jobs. The lab can duplicate different work environments and switch to any of the various management systems in use at different plants.
"That capability exists nowhere else," McDaniel said.
The training center also has a power generating simulator, allowing students and current employees to troubleshoot problems. Instructors will set the system up with a "fault" so students can diagnose and fix problems.
Jones said Georgia Power's other training facility, located at Plant Branch in Milledgeville, has been used to full capacity. The company began planning for a new facility to be constructed somewhere in North Georgia. But the estimated cost of $5 million to $6 million was a significant hurdle.
At the same time those plans were being discussed, the company was in negotiations with CVTC to provide electrical and mechanical apprentice training that would get new hires ready to go to work at Georgia Power.
McDaniel suggested the use of the Rockmart facility to Georgia Power employee Jeff Peoples. Jones said Peoples took the idea and ran with it, creating a vision and moving the project forward within a time-frame of just 110 days.
Areas of instruction covered by the new training center include an electrical apprentice program, a mechanical apprentice program, instrumentation and controls and the auxiliary equipment operator training program. Classes are taught by employees from Georgia Power, as well as by CVTC instructors.
Current employees will be engaged with ongoing training, which according to Southern Company officials helps them maintain an outstanding record of safety and dependability.
In addition to Georgia Power, Southern Company's holding include Alabama Power, Mississippi Power and Gulf Power. Jerry Stewart, chief production officer for Southern Company, said its power plants enjoy "a low percentage of unavailability -- 1 1/2 to 2 percent."
"That is much better than anyone else in the industry," Stewart said.
He said his counterparts in the industry have asked how Southern Company manages to keep downtime so low. Steward said these other utilities have all the same equipment and software. The secret is a dedicated investment in employee training, he said.
"They've got all the same stuff we have," Stewart said. "The one thing they don't have is our employees.
"And you only have superior employees when you're dedicated to training."