More skilled workers key to Georgia’s economic future

Job creation has been the mantra of voters and politicians for a few years now. One question: If the jobs do come, will we have anyone to fill them?

That might sound like a silly question, given that April was the first month in almost two years that Georgia’s unemployment rate was below 10 percent. But according to Melvin Everson, it’s not a matter of how many Georgians want to be employed, but how many of them are employable.

Everson, who lost the GOP primary for labor commissioner last summer, was named by Gov. Nathan Deal to lead the Office of Workforce Development. After four months on the job, he said Georgia is in danger of having a mismatch between the skills employers need and the skills potential hires have.

“With the downturn of the economy, we saw a lot of jobs eliminated. Unfortunately, a lot of those jobs will not return to the economy,” he told me Monday. “However, they will be replaced with new jobs that will require a new set of skills. …

“My biggest fear is, when this thing really turns around, we won’t have the work force we need for these jobs that will become available.”

Everson’s efforts entail identifying and matching the skills that are needed with the workers who need to update their skill sets. What worries him is the dearth of Georgians not with college educations, but with technical training.

Maintenance technicians, medical technicians, welders, medical assistants — all are jobs that Everson said will be in greater demand as the economy retools itself and, importantly, baby boomers retire from these positions.

These jobs can’t be off-shored. And, Everson said, if “you come out of these technical colleges with the right background, you’ll make more than some people with a [bachelor’s] degree.”

From a current shortage of welders to help build the new nuclear reactors at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle to an impending shortage of skilled maintenance workers in North Georgia’s textile factories, Everson said his office is “working feverishly to get these individuals in these [skill] areas so this pipeline to the work force can be sufficiently filled.”

“It’s not a de-emphasis on colleges,” he explained. “We should always prepare our students to go to college. … But at the same time, we have to emphasize the importance of our technical colleges. … It’s been out of balance.”

Everson gave an example of how “the two go hand in hand.”

“When a piece of equipment breaks down in a hospital, I’m not going to call a guy … with an MBA. I’m going to call someone with a medical technician background. … Short of that equipment working, that doctor can’t do anything.”

The problem Everson illustrates also speaks to a perennial bugbear of Georgia’s k-12 system — too many dropouts and too few high school graduates. He believes removing some of the stigma from technical education is key to solving both ills.

During a visit to a technical college, Everson said he was stunned by the number of young people studying for a GED (as opposed to people in their 40s or 50s). The teacher said most of them “didn’t see any relevance to what they were learning in high school. So they got bored, burned out, and they dropped out. Whereas, she said if exposed to other career path options more rigorously, the light bulbs will come on and they’ll see that there is some relevance to what’s going on here.”

Ultimately, he said, making students aware of the possibilities and guiding older Georgians toward the most marketable skills are the best ways for the state to “create jobs.”

“This goes a long way toward fostering and creating that environment for the businesses and industries to say we have a work force that we can work with, let’s go ahead and put some jobs over here.”

– By Kyle Wingfield

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46 comments Add your comment

Bart Abel

May 25th, 2011
6:00 pm

Great piece! I couldn’t agree more.


May 25th, 2011
7:41 pm

Kyle, what is the difference between a blog & a cult?


May 25th, 2011
7:46 pm

Good. One of the things Deal talked about in his campaign for Governor was the need for more and better technical skills training. We need it in high schools. We need to help kids who don’t want to go to college to find another niche. And, we need for state funding to schools to go back up – that means taxes and that means raising taxes if necessary. I know we harp about taxes but couldn’t we at least be willing to be taxed for schools to train kids to do the jobs that are coming? We will get it back in future tax revenue but only if we spend it in the first place.

One more point. We rant and rave about federal spending and a lot of that is in education grants and loans to students that are guaranteed by the federal government. We can get the feds out of that business if we are willing to educate our own kids at tax payor expense.


May 25th, 2011
8:03 pm

Cobbian@7:46, Can you cite any sites that prove that any state or fed. increases in educational spending has overall increased the quality of education for the last few decades, on a consistent level?
Do you really believe that the problem with our education system is lack of funding?


May 25th, 2011
8:16 pm

good column kyle.

I’d say, like in some Asian countries, after middle school we need to split the groups up based on 8th grade testing exams. Technical career preparation for a certain segment, pre-college for another.

Road Scholar

May 25th, 2011
8:18 pm

Let’s cut the education budget more and raise the cost of a college tuition!Again! We need to increase our apprenticeship programs and professional engineering graduate rates, and not by lowering our standards. More government funding for transportation and infrastructure would have a high return on the investment if the current state leadership would forget about privatization and actually fund something!


May 25th, 2011
8:36 pm

“More government funding for transportation & infrastructure” = more union jobs, more crony capitalism.


May 25th, 2011
9:13 pm

Got news for you Kyle…it’s the key for the US economic recovery. People love to tell truth but not on this. Gone are the days of going to the factory after barely graduating high school.


May 25th, 2011
9:45 pm

Your article is good as far as it goes. But it does not really address the need to train people for highly skilled hi tech jobs that 21st century industries also need. That is where the really highly paid jobs are, not in the medium level tech jobs you reference. Just xref Research Triangle in N.C., Silicon Valley or Boston area. That requires large investments at same time your pals in GOP have gutted higher educ. in Ga. You can’t have it both ways Kyle. Either you want Ga. to be a leader or a colony.


May 25th, 2011
10:16 pm

Kyle, what happened – no partisan politics??!! Be careful, Mr. Wooten might come back!!



May 26th, 2011
12:00 am

Kyle is from Dalton, which has the highest unemployment and the lowest average education level in the state. Not surprisingly, Dalton also has the highest concentration of illegal aliens in the state(these are all documented facts). Compounding the lack of education, half of the population cannot speak English.

Dalton’s politicians, who sat on their hands as the carpet cartel singlehandedly tranformed the town into a Mexican barrio, mirror the entire state’s politicians.

While the electorate participates in a junvenile pissing contest on national and international affairs they no nothing about, these morons are transforming the entire state into a third world demographic cess pool to satisfy their bottom feeding benefactors’ endless quest for cheap labor.

If the current trend continues, our neighboring states will be fortifying their borders to keep us out.


May 26th, 2011
1:07 am

excellent points in this article, kyle. the basic issue as i see it is that one would be hard-pressed to find more than, say, half a dozen atlanta-area high schools that offer vocational and/or technical curriculum. oh, no…..*everyone* has to do the college-prep thing. this was demanded by parents who have carefully programmed their children to want *only* white-collar work. as a result, we now have a generation which is coming into the workforce having been taught that technical work is *beneath their dignity*.

there. i said it and i am glad.


May 26th, 2011
1:55 am

I have been a skilled craftsman for 30 plus years and i find it harder and harder to get young people interested in any of the skilled trades. I blame some of on their parents giving them anything they want their entire life without having to put forth any effort. But, some of the blame falls on the school systems. Today all they preach is college and its all or nothing. There is no orther route for a young person. Their entire four years is geared toward college and if they fall short they are looked upon as a failure. When indeed there are jobs that pay $30 – 40 per hour or more without a college degree.
A young person needs to be made aware of all their options instead of just college before they leave high school. They need career planning and guidence.

Michael H. Smith

May 26th, 2011
2:57 am

I wonder how many middle school teachers could identify which of their students have the potential for college or would be better suited to trade-technical schools?

I’m betting a good number do know with a better than average certainty. With a little vetting I’ll also bet those students identified as trade-technical school candidates can be matched correctly to the trade or technical career in which they would most likely succeed. In fact, if this was done there would likely be a decrease in high school drop-out rates, as well as producing a huge job ready workforce that would draw businesses to the State.

Joel Edge

May 26th, 2011
6:10 am

Back in the day before everything was called a college, the vocational schools churned out welders, mechanics, and industrial electricians. That’s how I got my start about 30 years ago. I was taught by a former motor repairman and rewinder with 40 years plus industrial experience. The Solid State that I took later was also taught by two guys with decades of experience. None of these guys could even get hired in todays system. A recent trip back to school for PLC programming courses and what I thought would be a refresher course turned out to be disappointing. I knew more than the instructor.

Buzz G

May 26th, 2011
8:03 am

We have become a nation with college degrees in History, Political Science, Sociology and Women’s Studies but are unable to do any real work. No wonder we have astronomical unemployment but have to import Mexicans to get the work done. The good news is that people seem to be starting to notice what is going on. This is about the 5th article I have read this week pointing out our condition. Maybe if we talk about it, we will finally be able to do something about it.


May 26th, 2011
8:26 am

I graduated from a vocational school right after high school ( Aircraft Maintenance ) and it was the best decision or my life. Pay was always good to excellent and jobs are plentiful. Lots more fun than a cube job.
Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty.


May 26th, 2011
8:31 am

If we are emphasizing “all for college” — it ain’t working — less than 25% of Georgians have college degrees — one of the weakest states in the nation in the count. So, I dismiss the argument that high school emphasis on going to college has led to the dearth of technical skills. The numbers don’t back that argument. Look at the number of students attending technical college (approaching the number who attend a university system college), look at how much HOPE is spent on technical college students (almost as much as the entire university system). Plenty of folks are going to technical school — so what gives?

An econ developer told me that the dirty secret in Georgia is that we have a work ethic problem. No one wants to work for 15-20 dollars an hour putting up sheet rock, repairing motors, or doing landscape. No one wants to work for $12 per hour, except immigrants, digging onions — “they leave after one day” says a farmer who tries to hire local labor.


May 26th, 2011
8:39 am

I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff,


May 26th, 2011
8:55 am

And, one more thing — the amount of loans taken by Georgians to get technical degrees (medical, dental, paralegal) from for-profit colleges rose to several hundred million a year — and the job placement — not good. Consumers need to be aware of those diploma mills …

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 26th, 2011
8:57 am

A funny thing happened to the K-12 education system when the federal government got involved and increased spending on it year after year–it started to SUCK.

Finn McCool

May 26th, 2011
9:13 am

Given current conservative hysteria about “runaway spending,” it’s worth remembering that the United States last balanced the federal budget in FY2001 under Bill Clinton.

That was largely a result of the Clinton income-tax increases of 1993, enacted without a single GOP vote amid universal Republican predictions of doom. They probably cost the Democrats control of Congress in 1994.

But contrary to Newt Gingrich and the rest, what followed was the most prolonged economic boom since World War II — 22 million new jobs altogether, the only period since 1980 when middle-class prosperity grew substantially.

Enter George W. Bush and the now-infamous tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

JF McNamara

May 26th, 2011
9:16 am

I agree with his assessment. For those with very little hope of graduating high school or getting into college, teaching a vocation is the way to go. I’d go as far as saying we should allow kids to acquire a vocation and drop out.

maniacaloaf16's Boss

May 26th, 2011
9:21 am

How much did you pay for that TV?

Forget your holiday bonus my friend…

Michael H. Smith

May 26th, 2011
9:31 am

I wouldn’t disagree with the work ethic problem that exist jd, but I do take exception to the statement no one wants to work for 15-20 dollars an hour putting up sheet rock, repairing motors, or doing landscape. I worked for better than 20 years in a construction trade and was very happy with that 15-20 dollar an hour pay. The big dirty secret lie that no one seem willing to expose or admit to, is why the use of this so-called immigrant labor – which is mostly illegal – is sought out by employers, which is to avoid paying all the taxes, all the insurance and to comply with all the labor and safety laws and rules on the books.


May 26th, 2011
9:36 am

yeah tiny, nothin’ beats that one room skool house.

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 26th, 2011
9:38 am

Finn McCool
May 26th, 2011
9:13 am

And then the dot com bubble burst. Fun while it lasted.

Swede Atlanta

May 26th, 2011
9:50 am

The message to young people for generations has been – get a college education if you want the American dream.

I don’t disagree with that for individuals with the aptitude and interest in jobs and careers that are furthered by a college education be it engineering or one of the professions. But it is a mistake for individuals that lack the aptitude or interest in jobs that require a post-secondary education.

I agree with the opinions that we need to stop denigrating trade jobs that require one to “get one’s hands dirty” and glorifying jobs that come with a college degree.

While I agree with at least one poster that suggested we begin to divert students toward technical training or more academic training starting after grade 8 or 9. In Sweden this has been done for decades fairly successfully.

My only issue with that is, historically in Sweden someone coming out from “basic education” in the essentials after grade 8 or 9 had strong core competencies – i.e. they could read, write, add/subtract and knew basic history, civics, science, etc. So diverting them was appropriate.

Unfortunately today not even our high school graduates are assured of coming out of high school (and in some cases even college) with those same basic skills that are result of a “liberal” education.

We need to make sure all students master the “essentials” and then direct them to the appropriate training for the future whether it is to vocational training or academics.


May 26th, 2011
10:06 am

Actually, many of the illegals who come here have skills in auto mechanics, welding, medical technology, etc. So, we don’t really have anything to worry about. Of course you know Georgia’s anti-immigration law is nothing but smoke and mirrors to fool the mindless into thinking the politicians, who are totally owned by Big Business, are actually doing something for the people. You may be certain that will never happen.


May 26th, 2011
10:07 am

You aren’t going to get skilled workers from our horrible government education system.

Swede Atlanta

May 26th, 2011
10:10 am

Ref MrLiberty

I got an excellent education from a public grade school, middle school and high school. I attended public universities in two different states finishing with my Doctorate.

The problem is not that it is public education. Public education served our nation (and serves most other advanced countries) very well.

There are no doubt problems with the way public education is currently being delivered, what it is teaching, etc. but it is not because it is public education.

Public education is what made the middle class possible.

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 26th, 2011
10:11 am

More government meddling = suckier public schools

Swede Atlanta

May 26th, 2011
10:15 am

Ref Lil’Barry Bailout

So what do you propose? Are you only going to educate those that can afford to attend private schools? Do you want to raise taxes by 40% to allow every child to attend a private school?

If not then American consumers will not be able to purchase the goods that American companies produce using offshore labor or once domestic wages match off-shore, those improverished American workers make.

Education is key and I don’t see you offering any viable alternative to public education. That is the problem with conservatives. They spout what they dislike but NEVER EVER offer any viable options. Very typical.


May 26th, 2011
10:18 am

Kick out the illegal immigrants and suddenly people are going to need technical degrees? Nope, just the desire to work in the hot sun during the growing/building season. It’s all connected.

retired early

May 26th, 2011
10:22 am

I have been saying this for years…everyone is not college material. Many people who attend have no clue about their career choice and simply enrolled because it was hammered into them that all other career choices were for losers. High schools would better serve “most” students by offering “vocational training” in lieu of “college preparatory” classes only. You would find that many students who currently drop out, would actually find reasons to finish school because of job skill it leads them to pursue along with the HS degree.
The hope scholarship is wasted on 70% of college bound students because they fail to graduate. When will our leaders quit using most of our tax dollars to the benefit of roughly 25% of our children…while the remaining 75% get the “leftovers”.
Colleges are businesses…there is nothing sacred about them. Then why is it our mandate as taxpayers to ensure that they “stay in business” at all cost, unchallenged by us for any real accountability. Education, from K through graduate degree is a “closed loop” system, designed as a self serving perpetual gravy train to those “educators” who lobby for it’s continued existence and fight any attempts for change.
It will be a tough battle, but our leaders need to get over the notion that education is a “sacred cow”, untouchable, and unable to be changed. We need to educate “ALL” of our children to prepare them for their future…first and foremost the Pre-K program must be fully funded, period. That would be a good start…literally.

Gator Joe

May 26th, 2011
10:23 am

Cut taxes, don’t raise taxes, no new taxes, cut spending, more tax breaks for corporations. Who needs education, technical education, literacy.

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 26th, 2011
10:57 am

[Conservatives] spout what they dislike but NEVER EVER offer any viable options.

Why so dense, Swede? When I “spout” that the problem is federal government meddling, are you incapable of inferring what my solution is?


May 26th, 2011
11:07 am

I believe there are 28 technical schools in Georgia after several have merged and now have 2 campuses.

How are students going to pay for the technical school?

Will the State continue to fully fund the schools or will they fall to other budget cutting priorities?

KIA located in western Georgia on the Alabama line to take advantage of Alabama residents who are better trained than Georgia residents.


May 26th, 2011
11:20 am

I’m a highly-skilled worker with a lot of experience…but it would take a lot of money to get me back to Atlanta….to many squidbillies….

Furious Styles

May 26th, 2011
11:30 am

The skilled workers are already here! Bring on the jobs already!


May 26th, 2011
12:35 pm

Colleges are too easy to get into now days. There are more of them and the old ones are twice as large as they were 20 years ago. The student applying is not as prepared as 20 years ago yet more and more call themselves college graduates.

If you are going to college solely to make a living you may be in the wrong place. The education itself should be appreciated. Somewhere in our speed bump thinking many of the masses find no wonder in education, it is just a means to get where you are going. The country shows a lot of cracks because of shallow thinkers. It certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea to let Joe the Plumber forgo college and go to technical school and give a college education back to people who appreciate it.

Dr. Craig Spinks/Augusta

May 26th, 2011
3:40 pm

What percentage of GA’s HS graduates has the knowledge, skills and work ethic necessary to benefit from the technical training Everson says our state’s economy needs?

Michael H. Smith

May 26th, 2011
3:40 pm

Uh, Byte Me, you left out too many dots to make a connection with reality. Some people need less options too avoid hard work. Along with such humane things as 99 weeks of unemployment checks, EBT cards, WIC vouchers and section eight housing goes the lost desire to do hard work under a hot sun.

Have you noticed that illegal aliens working in violation of U.S. laws are mostly people from countries that don’t give them such humane things as 99 weeks of unemployment checks, EBT cards, WIC vouchers and section eight housing?

Michael H. Smith

May 26th, 2011
4:03 pm

I’m sure HMMA which is located in Alabama had nothing to do with KIA being located in west Georgia so close to Alabama? :)


May 26th, 2011
4:22 pm

@Michael H Smith…. GOOD POINT.

Allow me to also add that this article underscores the that illegal immigrants honestly, realistically, aren’t taking jobs from Americans. Rather, they are taking jobs that most Americans would rather be UNEMPLOYED for over a year than apply and do.


May 26th, 2011
6:44 pm

@ Georgia Latino

“…illegal immigrants honestly, realistically, aren’t taking jobs from Americans…”

Is it the “latino” strategy to repeat the same fabrication over and over until people believe it is true?

Honestly, realistically, Illegal aliens have displaced thousands of people from the workplace in Dalton.

The language barrier created by the carpet cartel’s wildly successful illegal alien recruiting campaign paralyzed every business and public office in town.

The illegal alien invasion prompted a secondary invasion of bilingual Hispanics, mostly from Texas and California, who have displaced thousands of native English speaking citizens from the workplace.

The jobs lost to bilinguals range from receptionist in every office in town, bank tellers, salesmen, to doctors and lawyers, and all of it is the result of unabated illegal immigration.

HB 87 does absolutely nothing to address what is happening in Dalton. The tens of thousands of illegal aliens gainfully employed by the carpet cartel will not be effected – it only applies to new hires, otherwise the “Shady Deal” would have never signed it. It is business as usual.