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Technical colleges, lawmakers seeking to develop a younger aviation maintenance workforce

As the aviation maintenance and repair industry ages, Georgia lawmakers are taking a long look at how the education system is preparing a new generation of aircraft mechanics and technicians.

A group led by state Rep. David Knight, R-Griffin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Higher Education subcommittee, visited the Aviation program at Georgia Northwestern Technical College on Tuesday.

Industry reports indicate that there are more aircraft maintenance personnel over the age of 60 than there are under the age of 30.

“There is a vacuum in the industry,” said Jon Byrd, director of the aviation program at GNTC.

Joe Yarbrough, a Technical College System of Georgia board member, used “silver tsunami” as a reference to the number of older people in the workforce and the need to turn out more young technicians.

“This could not be more important to the success of our state,” Yarbrough said.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, also participated in the session along with several House budget analysts and officials from the TCSG.

The lawmaker’s group is going around the state to analyze the needs of the various aviation programs.

“We want to make sure that they are adequately funded, (to see) if they have the resources; looking at the ability of students to meet the demand,” Knight said. “There is going to be a great need to replace those folks who are keeping our aircraft in the air.”

The good news as it relates to the workforce is that the pandemic only heightened interest in the GNTC aviation program. It currently has 55 people on its waiting list and the program is in the process of transitioning into a competitive admissions process.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Byrd said.

GNTC President Heidi Popham said it’s clear more trained workers are needed.

“The discussion is that, as the state of Georgia, how do we produce more aviation maintenance technicians that have the FAA certification? How do we get a more skilled workforce quicker,” she said.

Knight asked if the college had room to expand. Byrd said there is additional physical space, but it would also require additional instructors and equipment so the added students would not have to compete for time on the equipment.

Byrd explained that he can’t just run out to Ace Hardware and pick up a wrench for his students to use — everything must meet stringent Federal Aviation Administration specifications.

The trio of budget analysts — Molly Azziz, Morgan Hall and Sara Arroyo — were asked to make specific note of the needs and costs associated with an FAA certified program.

COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy across Georgia spurs coalition to launch testing initiative

ATLANTA — With COVID-19 vaccinations lagging in Georgia, a newly formed coalition launched an initiative Tuesday to convince unvaccinated Georgians to get tested for the virus.

Forty organizations make up ACT Against COVID – the Alliance for Comprehensive Testing – including the Georgia AFL-CIO, the Georgia Municipal Association, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, local elected officials and public health professionals.

“In order to safely and responsibly reopen our communities, we need to continue to emphasize the importance of testing,” said Vince Williams, mayor of Union City, a small city in southern Fulton County. “Things are looking up, but we can’t let down our guard yet.”

Georgia’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is among the lowest in the nation with only 35% of Georgians fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Public Health. Floyd County is below that number, with 28% fully vaccinated and 31% of residents who have taken at least one dose.

As a result, testing remains an essential tool for reducing transmission of the virus.

“Our doctors care for a diverse population, including refugees who have settled in the Clarkston area over the past few decades,” said Dr. Gulshan Harjee, co-founder of the Clarkston Community Health Center in DeKalb County.

“These communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and implementing testing programs to identify where the virus is spreading will help us keep the infection rate under control.”

With vaccine hesitancy remaining high not only in Georgia but across the country, ACT Against COVID is being rolled out nationwide through a partnership with Quest Diagnostics, a Secaucus, N.J.-based clinical laboratory.

“2021 provides an opportunity for individuals to emerge from the pandemic and take back control of their health,” said Dr. Jay Wohlgemuth, Quest Diagnostics’ chief medical officer.

“COVID-19 has shone a light on the need for ongoing engagement in the health-care system. That includes preventive care, chronic care management and managing the spread of COVID-19.”

While the Georgia Department of Public Health has transitioned its resources from testing to providing vaccinations, COVID tests are still readily available at urgent care centers, pharmacies, primary-care physician offices, health clinics and some local government offices.

As part of that push, the Floyd County Health Department staff will travel to businesses to provide free COVID immunizations. For information and to make arrangements, contact health department Nurse Manager Alison Watson at 706-295-6123 or Alison.Watson@dph.ga.gov.

Oliver Yarborough, a student at Model Elementary School

Hearings on state's revamped child abuse prevention plan begin on June 25

A series of virtual hearings designed for parents as well as child welfare workers will begin on June 25 as Georgia works to implement its recently revamped Child Abuse Prevention Plan.

The plan outlines a number of strategies to prevent child neglect and abuse and increase family resilience and stability.

The plan was developed after a one year process of gathering data from community members and agencies across the state, Exchange Club Family Resource Center Executive Director Tina Bartleson said.

The FRC has been asked to serve as the local host for DFCS Region 3 hearings. Region 3 is comprised of Bartow, Douglas, Floyd, Haralson, Paulding and Polk counties.

The local programs are aimed at prioritizing items to best address local needs, Bartleson said.

Currently, Georgia ranks 38th in child and family wellbeing according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2019 KID COUNT profile. Bartleson said the state is hoping to improve its rank.

The first virtual meeting within our region will be held on Friday, June 25, at 9:30 a.m., with the second meeting on Friday, July 16, and the third and final session on Friday, Aug. 27.

The meetings across the three dates will cover a number of topics including prioritizing strategies and develop which priorities need to be given to each region and discuss the timeline for implementation of the plan.

“We hope that participants can join all three sessions, because each builds on the work of the previous one,” Bartleson said. “You will get Zoom details and other preparation information ahead of the sessions.”

To see the full schedule and register for the sessions, use this online form: https://forms.gle/RgPzUHfjGfF9M8WVA.

Rep. Greene apologizes for comparing masks with Holocaust

Northwest Georgia 14th District Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene apologized late Monday for comparing mask requirements in the U.S. House of Representatives to the horrors of the Holocaust.

“I’m truly sorry for offending people with remarks about the Holocaust,” the Rome Republican said in a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Greene told reporters she visited Washington’s U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier in the day. “There’s no comparison and there never ever will be,” she said.

The apology comes after her comments were condemned by Republican party leaders including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who called the comparison “appalling.”

Greene’s original remarks were made on a right wing podcast where she compared COVID-19 safety requirements adopted by Democrats controlling the House to “a time and history where people were told to wear a gold star.” She said they were “put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. This is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”

On Monday, she sent a different message.

“Anti-Semitism is true hate,” she said. “And I saw that today at the Holocaust Museum.”

However, that message had not found its way to her social media pages by early Tuesday — the place where she most often communicates with her supporters.

She primarily went on the attack, continually pushing conspiracy theories concerning the 2020 presidential election as well as reposting interviews from right wing media outlets.

Greene also retweeted support for a bill Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie said he would introduce, which would prevent requirements for members of the military to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Sign me on @RepThomasMassie!” her Twitter account stated.

However, vaccination requirements against other diseases are already commonplace for members of the military.

Greene’s apology comes after a three week break, as House members returned to the Capitol.

Her time in the House has been riddled with conspiracy laden remarks, but GOP leaders have often been reluctant to punish Greene. McCarthy and most of the House Republicans stood by her when Democrats pushed to have her stripped of her committee assignments in February.