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Chatt Tech Builds a Better Workforce

A four-week program will position people to fill hundreds of thousands of jobs going unfilled nationwide and give Cobb County another hook to bring more of those jobs here.

is launching a training program to spark growth in manufacturing jobs.

Starting Nov. 14, the college’s community and economic development department will turn current manufacturing workers and people who want to enter the industry into certified production technicians in four weeks.

The program at the college’s Manufacturing Training Center in Austell is starting small, with no more than 15 students, but it’s targeting the biggest problem in American manufacturing.

As many as 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled in the United States because companies can’t find workers with the right skills, according to “Boiling Point? The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing,” a survey the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte released Oct. 17.

Two-thirds of the 1,123 manufacturing executives surveyed said they have a moderate to severe shortage of qualified workers, and 56 percent expect the shortage to get worse over the next three to five years. Plus, 64 percent say the problem is preventing them from expanding or improving productivity, even while U.S. unemployment hovers above 9 percent.

“Executives can see the importance that our community and higher-education system place on the manufacturing process”

“Our education system must also do a better job aligning education and training to the needs of employers and job-seekers,” said Emily DeRocco, the president of the Manufacturing Institute.

Chattahoochee Tech is responding to that call.

Georgia’s largest technical college now is the state’s only certified Manufacturing Skills Standards Council center.

The council, whose website declares it is “certifying the industrial athlete of the future,” developed the certified production technician (CPT) program to teach the core abilities needed by highly skilled workers in all types of manufacturing.

The program has four modules: safety; quality practices and measurement; manufacturing processes and production; and maintenance awareness. Students can earn certification in any of the four; a student who earns them all gets CPT status.

“The new program offered by Chattahoochee Technical College is extremely important for many reasons,” said Brooks Mathis, the vice president of economic development at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. “The first reason is our need to train and retrain our workforce. With this new program, many of our citizens in Cobb County will benefit from this certification. 

“Secondly, this makes Cobb an attractive place for prospective businesses focused in the manufacturing arena—those executives can see the importance that our community and higher-education system place on the manufacturing process and the need for continued education in that field.”

The training fits with the expansion of the Skills for America’s Future program President Barack Obama announced in June. The president set the goal of certifying 500,000 manufacturing workers through a partnership among industry, schools such as Chattahoochee Tech, and the National Association of Manufacturers, the parent of the Manufacturing Institute.

The certification program comes as the Cobb Chamber is developing a , including aerospace and advanced manufacturing to take advantage of the presence of Lockheed Martin and in Marietta. The Chamber’s chief operating officer, Demming Bass, told the county last week that those jobs pay an average of $96,000 a year in Cobb.

Even though Bass said the recession that hit in 2008 has left the county with the same total number of jobs now as in 1998, Cobb County’s focus on manufacturing appears to be paying off.

Cobb had 592 manufacturing companies employing 19,078 workers at an average weekly wage of $1,357 in 2010, the Georgia Department of Labor said.

Although the number of manufacturing employees is down from 22,476 in 1991, it has jumped more than 20 percent from 15,826 in 2001. And the average weekly wage has increased 68 percent from $807 in 2001 and 102 percent from $671 in 1991.

“Trained and certified production technician workers can help this community to be more competitive in attracting high-wage, high-skilled jobs,” said Glenn Rasco, Chattahoochee Tech’s vice president of community and economic development. “This program will help address the growing skills gap by making it clear to workers what skills they need to work in manufacturing and at the same time enable manufacturers to identify applicants who have the requisite skills.”

Those skills go beyond reading, writing and math to include such areas as understanding the manufacturing process and knowing how to solve problems and when to seek help. Combined, the certified skills not only should help people get jobs now, but also should set them up for career advancement, the manufacturing council says.

The cost of the CPT program is $2,499, which covers the four modules and certification exams. Registration for the first four-week session ends Friday.

To enroll, you must be 18 or older, possess a high school diploma or GED, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien. Call 770-528-4551 for more information about signing up.

“This gives a student an overview of how production is performed,” said Tom Pokusa, who will teach the course. “I mean, it discusses how a business is structured. They learn the hierarchy. It will actually help them keep their job because if they have a problem they will be able to identify who they will need to talk to and understand basic procedures.”

You can find more articles from this ongoing series, “Dispatches: The Changing Amerian Dream,” from across the country at The Huffington Post.

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