Home-Grown High-Tech

For several decades, Atlanta has been among the favored cities of the high-tech industry. The trend continues as companies are either established or relocate here on an almost monthly basis and need to fill jobs.

And as befits Atlanta’s prominent place in the country’s high-tech hierarchy, employment in this sector has been on a four-year rise. In the Georgia Department of Labor’s listing of “Hot Careers,” many of the fastest-growing sectors are in high-tech and many of those good-paying jobs don’t even require a four-year college degree.

In the DOL’s “Hot Careers to 2022,” two jobs in the technology sector that expect significant growth and don’t call for bachelor’s degrees are web developers (140 jobs per year with an average salary of $73,000) and computer user support specialists (870 jobs per year, $47,900). Two hot jobs for those with four-year degrees include computer and systems information managers (370 jobs, $122,800) and database administrators (160, $84,000).

Many area companies are eager, and even desperate, to hire homegrown talent, and plenty of educational entities are expanding and creating programs to train adults interested in tech careers. The TAG (Technology Association of Georgia) Education Collaborative (tagedonline.com) predicts that by 2018 some 218,000 job openings will be available in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in Georgia.

Where you can find high-tech training

Georgia Piedmont Technical College (gptc.edu) is getting in on the action by establishing programs that prepare students for work on the tech size of the Atlanta area’s booming digital media industry. Two years ago, the school created programs in design and media production technology and recording arts technology, with a new television and production studio. The first graduates of those programs are heading into the field this spring.

In the design and media production realm, specializations offered include TV production, 3-D animation, graphic design, motion graphics and web interface. Hands-on training is part of the education experience.

“One of the hallmarks of our program is we give our students the hands-on experience to learn the skills and to ultimately get the jobs,” said Cory Thompson of Georgia Piedmont. “A lot of people in the industry are looking for those skills. They don’t care what school you went to – they want to know if you can do the job. And that’s our focus – to get them the job.”

With a host of large manufacturers in northeast Georgia, Athens Technical College (athenstech.edu) is doing its part not only to prepare its students for 21st century high-tech work but is “future-proofing” their degrees and certificates through its emerging technologies and nanotechnology programs.

Mark Evans, chair of Athens Tech’s emerging technologies and engineering technologies programs, says the emerging technologies curricula — which is expected to come online this fall — will include tracks on mobile security and mobile planning, high-tech security, video game design and development, personal robotics and drones.

Certifications also are a way to pursue in-demand tech jobs. Interactive College of Technology (ict.edu), which is based in Chamblee and has other metro area locations, offers training programs through Microsoft and national certifications, along with diploma and associates degree programs in computer information systems.

Career possibilities in Georgia’s high-tech industry

Of course, the best endorsement of the education students are come in the form of job offers. Leaders of two Atlanta firms – Ingenious Med and First Data – say they are pleased with their partnerships with local schools, from technical colleges to research universities such as Georgia Tech. Major institutions such as Georgia Tech, for example, also offer professional education courses in technology and other fields.

Some companies, such as Ingenious Med, which was founded in 1999 and develops mobile software solutions for point-of-care treatment and information gathering of patients, have created internship programs in partnership with local schools.

With 23,000 employees across the world servicing clients in nearly 70 companies, Atlanta-based First Data, which specializes in payment technology and service solutions, has an immense presence in its home state. Steve Trehern, senior vice president for human resources, said the company makes some 5,000 hires annually, and new employees include military veterans and in-state college graduates.

Trehern says specific technical skills First Data seeks in job candidates include application development or agile mobile development, software testing, network design or architecture, engineering, security engineers, cloud computing, virtualization and cyber security.

“We look for people with those kinds of skills,” he says, “and it’s really great if they have previous experience while they were in college, or in the case of a veteran, while they were in the military before completing their degree or technical certification.”

How the state is making training more affordable

While a technical college education is likely to cost less than a four-year degree, the state also helps students through the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant (tcsghopeinfo.com), which provides financial assistance currently for seven technical college programs, including information technology and healthcare technology. Computer programming, offered by Gwinnett Technical College, Chattahoochee Technical College, Georgia Piedmont Technical College and Athens Technical College, also was being considered in spring 2015.

Students must be fully admitted to one of Georgia’s technical colleges, enrolled in one of the approved programs and currently receiving the HOPE Scholarship for consideration. Depending on the number of hours taken in a particular semester, students can receive up to $500 in funding to defray the cost of tuition.

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