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Manufacturing and Industrial Center would serve companies, expand programs for students

Central Georgia Technical College unveiled plans Tuesday for a $3 million, 20,000-square-foot center on its campus that will help meet ever-changing training demands as more companies embrace new technology.

“We have a difficult challenge. We have to train people for jobs that don’t exist yet,” Hank Griffeth, CGTC’s vice president for academic affairs, said at Tuesday’s 2012 Regional Workforce Development Summit hosted by the college.

The Central Georgia Manufacturing and Industrial Center would be built in two phases at a location near the rear entrance of the campus located off Eisenhower Parkway. The college’s foundation has the local share of funds for the project and is awaiting word on a grant that would help pay the rest, Griffeth said.

“Once we get the grant, I think we’ll be breaking ground pretty quickly for phase 1,” he said. “We are well on the way.”

The center would serve area companies by providing training specific to manufacturers while also enhancing and expanding credit programs for students. The facility will be an “integrated project” with the college’s academic affairs and economic development departments sharing labs and resources, said Griffeth.

Noting that the project’s plans are “fluid” and have changed already, he said phase 1 would be a $1.5 million, 10,000-square-foot building that would include labs for robotics, mechanical assembly, alternative energy and other areas. Phase 2 would be an L-shaped addition that could be as large as 15,000 square feet and cost $1.5 million to $2 million.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, who spoke at Tuesday’s summit, called for a bigger shift of focus toward technical colleges.

“You have to be honest with young people. They may say they want to be this, and you may have to tell them that’s not where the jobs are,” he said after the summit. “You’ve got to have a population that’s going to have skill sets. Transferable, diverse skills will go a long way.”

Butler noted a 2011 statewide survey found employers were having a difficult time filling jobs such as welders, machinists, electrical technicians and truck drivers.

“They’re having a hard time finding skilled workers,” he said.

The college conducted a local needs assessment survey and found that companies identified the need for trained personnel as the biggest barrier to success or future growth. Of the 45 companies surveyed, all but two said the new center would be beneficial.

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