Doug Jones, senior vice president of Southern Company, told those attending the open house that the work the program will prepare students for is hard to describe, but that training will be invaluable because the academy at GTNC is the only one of its kind in the country.
In the simplest term, Jones said, Georgia Power takes a molecule of fuel, coverts it to steam, turns a turbine and creates electricity.
“In between there are thousands of things going on at the same time,” he said. “The instrumentation and controls are the people who make those things happen. It requires a lot of training and technical knowledge. We can’t hire someone off the street. This (academy) will help us get a jump start on that training.”
Admittance into the associate degree program will be highly competitive, with only 15 to 20 people entering at a time. Those students will be selected from a larger pool of qualified students who have met a series of high standards.
Those who complete the program will be entering a field where people are in demand, said Harvey Ivey, Southern Company’s I&C design and support manager. He said of all the people who currently work these jobs for his company, about 45 percent are eligible for retirement right now. And finding qualified people to fill open jobs is not easy.
“What we hope for our partnership with Georgia Northwestern Technical College is to grow out the local talent pool,” said Ivey.
A tremendous amount of time and resources are required to prepare someone for these types of jobs, he said, and the college setting is a good way to train future employees.
Nearly $3 million from more than a dozen sources has been invested in the new program, including $2 million in state-of-the-art lab equipment. GNTC President Craig McDaniel said with the college’s budget suffering in recent years, there is no way the college could have created the program without those business partnerships.
“I’ve been in this business of technical education a long time, and this partnership between this technical college and Georgia Power and Southern Company is the best partnership I’ve ever seen in technical education,” said McDaniel.
He said Southern Company officials came to the college with a problem and they were able to sit down together and work out a way for the college to create a solution. McDaniel said the program will help create valuable work-ready graduates who will be valued by their future employers.
“They understand the most important resource they have is the people,” he said.