From teaching "soft" skills to connecting veterans with job opportunities, the University of North Georgia (UNG) and the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) are sharing information and resources to benefit economic development in the region and the state.
With nearly 16,000 students, UNG has campuses in Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee County. Mary Transue, associate vice president of executive affairs, said UNG is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the Georgia Department of Labor to aid workforce development in counties the university serves.
"Work sessions such as this one with the Georgia Department of Labor allow us the opportunity to bring together individuals from across the university to collaborate and begin building partnerships and programs designed to grow the qualified workforce in our region, including finding other ways to provide training and information in the communities we serve," Transue said. "In addition, we're starting to see that though workers may start off with a technical degree, to advance in their careers they will need additional training, skills and certification that can be provided by UNG through continuing education or college courses."
Because of the location of UNG's four campuses, the university's service area encompasses two GDOL regions. Coordinators from both regions have been talking with UNG administrators about working together on workforce development initiatives and notifying students and the community about training and employment opportunities both entities offer.
"As regional coordinators, we assist employers and the workforce of Georgia," said Dannette Smith, regional coordinator for Region 2. "We basically promote the value of Georgia's workforce. We sell Georgia's qualified, skilled workforce to current, expanding and prospective employers."
GDOL's focus on workforce development and education aligns with UNG's Complete College Georgia plan. Complete College Georgia was announced by Gov. Nathan Deal as a statewide initiative in the wake of a 2011 study by Georgetown University that found Georgia will need to increase the percentage of its population with some level of college completion from a current 42 percent to 60 percent to meet projected workforce needs.
Cindy Morley, who works on special projects for GDOL Commissioner Mark Butler, talked about the agency's Georgia Business Ethics Student Training (BEST) program. The program, which focuses on 10 "soft" skills like appearance, punctuality and organization, is designed to produce a workforce that is prepared to face the challenges of a global marketplace. Some 200 high schools around the state are offering the program and Morley is working on expanding the program to elementary and middle schools, starting with a pilot program in Hall County.
"With Georgia BEST, in particular, we feel like investing in today's students is investing in tomorrow's workforce," Morley said.
UNG administrators are interested in developing a state-recognized certificate program through Continuing Education & Public Service that would offer the Georgia BEST program to adult learners trying to enter or re-enter the workforce.
GDOL also currently coordinates with the university's Office of Career Services on job fairs and job opportunities. Other potential areas for collaboration also have been identified, including job training and employment opportunities for veterans and ethics training for k-12 students.