Commissioner Ron Jackson

TCSG: Not Your Daddy’s Old Trade School

by Ron Jackson

The extent that a business effectively utilizes new technology is a measure of the company’s profitability.  The critical issue for many companies today is filling their new jobs with talented people who can think critically and have real-world expertise in the latest technology.

Technical knowledge is essential for today’s workplace, and the Technical College System of Georgia is a vital source for the sort of high-tech training that employers need.  And the good news is that a state technical college education is easily accessible and relatively affordable for Georgians of all ages.  Best of all, TCSG graduates earn a premium salary because they know their jobs.

In the current economy, when many people are struggling for work, the majority of TCSG graduates are enjoying a high job placement rate, and they find success in a wide range of careers like advanced manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare, logistics, and even traditional trades like plumbing and welding.  Last year, more than 185,000 TCSG students sought to jump-start their careers by enrolling in almost 600 technical education programs.

The Technical College System of Georgia is a unique and valuable asset for our state. With 25 colleges and 85 campuses, the opportunity for a technical education is usually within a 30 minute drive from anywhere in Georgia. The accredited TCSG colleges offer core curriculum credits that will transfer to the University System of Georgia and many other four-year colleges, if that makes sense for a student’s personal goals.

I frequently tell people that today’s TCSG colleges are not “your daddy’s old trade school.” Visit any campus and you’ll see instructors teaching highly complicated subjects to students who are learning hands-on skills in state-of-the-art classrooms. The education is always relevant because TCSG colleges partner their programs with business and industry and shape their curriculum to meet those companies’ needs for skilled workers.

Another part of the TCSG, Georgia’s highly-acclaimed Quick Start program, specializes in contract training for companies that are new or expanding in Georgia.Advanced manufacturing, healthcare and bioscience, warehousing and distribution, automotive, and service industries are but a few of Quick Start’s areas of expertise. And Quick Start’s collaborations with hundreds of companies, including giants like Kia, Caterpillar, Toyo, and Baxter Pharmaceuticals, help to foster economic development in Georgia.

The TCSG also plays a major role in educating a more literate Georgia, where almost 1.2 million adults are still without a high school education. Last year, the TCSG Office of Adult Education provided adult basic education, GED preparation and testing, and English as a Second Language programs for almost 90,000 adult learners.  Our goal is to transition more GED graduates on to the technical colleges and, ultimately, into the workforce. A more literate population means better jobs, improved communities and more prosperity for every Georgian.

The Technical College System of Georgia is in the business of transforming students, building careers, and changing lives through lifelong learning.  The people that we educate come from every walk of life.  They’re from your community, they’re your friends and neighbors, maybe even your family members.  And all enjoy the same access to the cutting-edge technical education programs and workforce training collaborations that lead to the high-paying, skilled jobs of today and the future.

As a Georgia taxpayer, you should know that your Technical College System of Georgia is a bright and rising star in national higher education. Our achievements, however, have always been accomplished on an extremely tight balance sheet, even long before the Great Recession forced the state to cut its budget to the bone. The TCSG is proud to be the people’s colleges, yet money issues mean that our campuses must struggle to assist the many aspiring students who simply cannot afford even the modest tuition necessary to be trained for a good job.

The TCSG is committed to a day when no deserving student must abandon the dream of a career and a better life just because he or she cannot afford a college education.  To do that, though, Georgia’s technical colleges need the same zealous and generous support that has for years backed traditional universities and colleges. The Technical College System of Georgia is a worthy investment that needs your appreciation and support.

As published by Atlanta Business Chronicle, January 25-31, 2013.

Ron Jackson is commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia. Find out more about the TCSG at www.tcsg.edu