Among the challenges facing educators this year and for many to come doesn’t fall within the textbooks and tests that are part of the academic life of youth. It’s in the soft skills: the showing up on time, staying to complete a task, ensuring that youth who are heading into jobs communicate effectively.

That’s where programs like the Polk County College and Career Academy are making a big impact, and providing students with the opportunity to find good careers after they graduate with their diplomas.

Back in November, contractors and students from all around the area flocked on the PCCCA Cedartown campus to take part in regional Skills challenge contests. The competition brought students in trade skills like carpentry, plumbing, electrical and welding work among others together for the day to see who is the best at their level in the state.

Since right now, some of the biggest hole in the job market are being left unfilled in high paying jobs that are needed to keep infrastructure working and building projects on the move.

Mike Dunham, the CEO of AGC Georgia was on hand for the late 2019 event and was excited to see the level of talent students already have on the high school level.

“Our industry has a big need for new workers,” he said. “What we’re doing here at in four other regions around the state is to give young men and women a chance to demonstrate the skills they are learning in school, and to come out and sharpen their skills as well. We hope that they see a career path and see a future for themselves in this industry.”

Opportunities abound for students who are able to lay brick, run a clean weld or knows how to wire up a circuit breaker panel. Starting pay is higher than in other industries in many of these professions as the rate of retirement in skill trades like plumbing, carpentry, masonry, electrical and more begin to increase.

“If you’re a mason, if you’re carpenter, if you’re can hang drywall, you’re needed,” Dunham said. “If you’re a truck driver, you’re needed. I had a gentleman call me from a concrete company recently that had three trucks sitting in the yard needing to be driven and delivered that day, and he didn’t have drivers for them. Our industry has a need in every position right now.”

Brassfield & Gorrie’s Chris Britton agreed. He was hoping that future graduates locally and around the area will consider donning hard hats and getting to work on the ever-growing number of construction projects underway.

“If you drive through downtown Atlanta, and you see the number of tower cranes that are standing up right now, you know that everyone of those jobs needs qualified people,” Britton said. “There’s kids that don’t necessarily want to go to college. They want to learn a skill trade, they want to work with their hands. The construction industry has historically been a challenge because no one wants to go into construction.”

He said students can have a “phenomenal career” working on construction and contracting trades, and work for a company and make just as much as college graduates right out of high school.

“It’s a great recruiting tool,” he said.

Yet it isn’t just about the work being done on a job site that makes the difference with programs like those at PCCCA can provide. Grading isn’t just about academic performance or project completion in programs at Cedartown and Rockmart high campuses, but also about their performance in other ways. Aren’t showing up on time or getting work completed within the parameters set? That counts too.

Workforce Development remains a big priority not just for the schools, but organizations like the Polk County Chamber of Commerce and the Development Authority of Polk County. Their interest lies in ensuring a strong workforce is locally available no matter the circumstances.

Because businesses like Duffey Southeast might need workers right now, but so do others like TipTop or The HON Company. As the variety of work continues to grow as new industries move in or existing industries grow, so will the needs for greater workforce development and recruitment.

A priority in 2020 and beyond that is worth focusing on for the future of Polk.

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