Throughout 2014 & 2015, the HDCI team learned a great deal about the workforce needs of the private sector in Georgia. Business owners expressed their need for trained and reliable workers that are ready to hit the ground running and contribute to business growth. Since the start of this initiative, many strides have been made to begin addressing the needs uncovered thus far. Below you will find a few of the successes that have resulted from industry feedback and efforts by the Governor, the Georgia General Assembly, the HDCI team, and other education partners throughout the state.
The State of Georgia has committed to making education accessible for all, especially in high demand industries. Formerly known as the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant (SIWDG), the HOPE Career Grant provides HOPE Grant recipients, who are pursuing training in certain in-demand fields, with additional funding to cover the cost of their education. Based on industry feedback, the program has been expanded to now include 17 approved program areas.
State-wide data and participant feedback indicated that students were abandoning in-demand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degrees due to the rigor of the courses and fear of losing their HOPE Scholarship funds because of the risk to their GPA. Coincidentally, businesses expressed a desperate need of graduates in many of the STEM fields students were abandoning. In response, the Georgia General Assembly passed and Governor Deal signed HB 801 during the 2016 legislative session. The legislation is intended to address the challenge of retaining students in high-demand STEM degrees as well as encourage new students to pursue these fields. Beginning Fall term 2017, specific degree-level STEM courses identified as leading to high demand career fields in Georgia, and taken at an eligible postsecondary institution will have an additional weight of 0.5 added to grades of B, C and D.
Georgia has recognized a need to increase interest in computer programming to prevent future workforce gaps. Therefore, the Georgia Board of Education has amended its policy to allow computer programming courses to satisfy core requirements in the areas of math, science, and foreign language in high schools. Additionally, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will now accept these computer programming courses as part of their admissions process.
To meet the needs of the FinTech industry – the University System of Georgia in partnership with TCSG have built a baseline for a series of courses to be able to provide a trained workforce. The American Transaction Processing Coalition (ATPC) has been part of this conversation since July 2014 with the University System of Georgia. The team at USG has been meeting and interviewing ATPC member companies over the last year. USG is looking at programs that meet the needs of the industry, that are affordable and accessible online. As a result, in Fall ’17 USG released its Fintech Talent Development Insights that lays out a framework for developing new programs of study based on direct industry feedback for advanced skills.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has approved the creation of a new college education credential, to be called a “Nexus Degree.” The nexus degree will “emphasize the connections between industry, skilled knowledge and hands-on experience in high-demand career fields such as cybersecurity and financial technology.” This new short-term degree will be expansion of the degrees currently offered at USG institutions (e.g., associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral). The degree is designed to allow USG institutions to better meet the workforce needs in their community. The new degree will entail 18 hours of coursework, with at least six of those hours in experiential learning such as internships or in-the-field experiences. At least 12 hours of coursework must be at the upper-division level. Depending on the nexus degree focus, some prerequisite courses may be necessary. Curriculum for the credential is being designed in collaboration with industry experts to ensure it meets specific requirements for high-demand jobs, including those in the market now and those planned for the future.
The USG Cyber Security initiative was created in late 2014 with a mission of providing recommendations on how the USG can develop and deliver more cyber security-capable graduates. Committee members from seven of the USG institutions with cyber security education opportunities provided recommendations for a comprehensive USG plan. Topics under consideration include: creating new degree programs, revising existing degree programs, inter-institutional standardization and collaborations, prior learning assessments and creation of courses delivered by our Professional and Continuing Education programs providing graduates with certifications to meet specific industry skills needs. These efforts will be complimented by distance learning technologies and a fully integrated approach with industry and our USG career services at each institution.
To meet the growing need for cyber security personnel (specifically in response to rapid expansion of the U. S. Army Cyber Command and the Cyber School of Excellence at Fort Gordon), the State of Georgia is constructing the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training in Augusta, Georgia. The Georgia Technology Authority is overseeing construction and operation of the center, which will be a state-owned facility designed to promote modernization in cybersecurity technology for both the private and public sectors through unique education, training, research, and practical applications. Comprised of two buildings with a total of 332,000 square feet and budgeted at more than $100 million, the center is the single largest investment in a cybersecurity facility by a state government to date. When it opens in July 2018, the center will address the growing demand for highly trained cybersecurity professionals by connecting academic programs with innovative start-ups and established technology companies. It will also serve as an incubator for start-up cybersecurity companies and focus on research and development by tapping into the assets of Georgia’s research institutions.
The University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia joined forces to launch the Georgia Film Academy (GFA) to help the film and television industry meet its workforce needs. The courses provide students with extensive hands-on experience on film sites across the state. Students have an opportunity to network, build resumes and learn to market themselves in order to become integrated into the film industry as entry-level workers. GFA is partnered with USG and TCSG institutions throughout the state, offering opportunities for training to individuals all across Georgia.
In October of 2015, Governor Deal launched Georgia WorkSmart, the state’s work-based learning initiative offering companies a menu of employment training options tailored to their specific workforce needs, the most prominent of which is registered apprenticeships. Georgia WorkSmart assists Georgia companies in developing and implementing customized programs to meet their specific hiring and training needs.