Tech colleges have options for lifelong learners

In today’s highly-competitive job market, employers are willing to pay well for people who can master the latest technologies.

Even so, many companies in the U.S. are struggling to fill their skilled jobs. From one end of the country to the other, in the boardrooms of blue-chip companies and offices of local businesses, executives and managers worry about long lists of applicants who are short on desirable skills.

The fact is much of what was old-school education and training is no longer the ticket to success in today’s highly technical, very specialized workforce. In rapid fashion, sophisticated technology and interconnectivity have forever changed the hiring needs of business and industry.

With the lightning-fast advance of technology, jobs that were thought to be essential just a few years ago are no longer important today, Technology, however, is also creating great new jobs. That’s why lifelong learning and retraining must become the new norm for the American workforce.

Georgians have easy access to lifelong learning through the 23 colleges of the Technical College System of Georgia. TCSG programs are the fast, affordable, and guaranteed way for people of any age and in any part of the state to discover new skills and add to their existing knowledge.

Technical education opens doors to careers in fields that are essential to the state’s economy, like aerospace, healthcare, logistics and transportation, energy and the environment, life sciences, and the skilled trades. The technical colleges’ flexible class schedules and online classes make finding a rewarding career easier than ever before.

And getting quality training doesn’t have to break the bank, which can be a concern for non-traditional students who support families and pay the bills. To start, many students qualify for Georgia’s HOPE Grant, which will pay two-thirds of tuition at a TCSG college.

Even better, Gov. Nathan Deal and the state legislature added three financial aid options in 2014: the Zell Miller Grant, which pays full tuition for high-achieving students; an expanded Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant, which helps pay tuition, books, and fees in seven high-demand program areas; and a one-percent interest rate loan for technical college students that will be completely forgiven if the student graduates with an overall grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

As a Georgian, you have excellent access to world-class technical education, and the means are there to help you get the skills that you need to excel in the job market. This Labor Day, make the promise to learn more and earn more.

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Ron Jackson is commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia.

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