The coronavirus pandemic has caused many businesses to change the way they do things and bastions of higher learning, area colleges and technical colleges included, are no different.

The cost of a four-year collegiate education is rising and a Technical College System of Georgia education continues to be an option for Georgia residents that may not have the funds or access to necessary loans for the University of Georgia’s, Georgia Tech’s, Kennesaw State’s and Georgia State Universities of the world.

Atlanta Technical College, which serves not only the city of Atlanta and Fulton County, but neighboring Clayton County as well, is one of those schools offering the higher educational options that lead to career opportunities and they are looking to continue that legacy.

With the need for goods being shipped around the country, the trucking industry is the rare field that has grown during the pandemic.

Atlanta Technical College wants to continue offering the training for transportation and logistics at a high level by requesting $3.2 million in funding from the state for an on-campus Center for Transportation and Logistics.

“This is a meaningful way to connect these students with a high-demand career field,” said Atlanta Technical College President Dr. Victoria Seals, who has been at the helm of the Atlanta school since December 2016. “This has been one of my top priorities since I got here, and my top priority the past three years.”

The project is designed to provide training for commercial driver’s licenses (CDL), which truck drivers are required to have. There will also be training for diesel mechanics, supply chain logistics, warehouse management, warehouse working, logistics operations and management and procurement.

Seals believes a proper training ground for these careers can help change the lives of the students that attend Atlanta Tech, most of whom are Black. “I believe this project, in particular, is a solution for economic mobility for some of our hardest hit communities,” she said. “Once they see this is a high-quality timely way to get the training they need students will be encouraged to pursue those [transportation and logistics] careers.”

Students that complete training and earn their license have the opportunity to immediately start a new career with an average annual starting pay of about $50,000. According to Ziprecruiter oversize load drivers can make even more, the annual salary for that speciality being $55,289 during 2020.

The access to a college career isn’t always feasible for the middle and lower working class citizens of Atlanta’s Black neighborhoods.

Even with the option of HOPE scholarships, in-state tuition and loans, the price of a college education can be more of a gamble than a next step for many. The training for a career however can be worth the financial commitment.

Seals understands that a new center for training drivers and workers in the trucking industry can change the lives of the many students that walk the Atlanta Tech campus. She also understands full well what this project can accomplish.

“People may think these careers are inaccessible, and part of what we do at Atlanta Technical College is demystify that way of thinking,” said Seals by phone Wednesday afternoon. “It’s right here for these individuals and we’re here to provide that training for them.”

The school has a slogan “Transforming lives through the power of technical education” and with a need for more truck drivers now more than ever that slogan seems to ring truer and truer.

The necessary funding for the project will need to come from the state’s fiscal year 2022 Technical College System of Georgia budget. A budget that will come across the desk of Governor Brian Kemp before it makes its way to state House and Senate budget committees.

Each year the 22 technical colleges within the state submit requests for special projects and according to statistics on capital outlay within TSCG to each school the past 10 years obtained by The Atlanta Voice, Atlanta Technical College has not received capital outlay funding within the past decade.

In comparison, Albany Technical College received nearly $5 million in 2018, Athens Technical College received $9.8 million in 2019 and 2021 combined ($8.2 and $1.7 million, respectfully), Central Georgia Technical College, located in Warner Robins, was granted $17.6 million in 2010, $16.4 million in 2014 and more than $2 million in 2012, 2016 and 2019, respectfully.

Lanier Technical College over $120 million for a new campus in 2017 and 2018. West Georgia Technical College was awarded $49 million in 2020 and another $9 million in 2021 for further example.

Wiregrass Technical College, located in Douglas, population 11,900, was awarded $4.9 million last year. West Georgia Technical College was awarded $49 million in 2020 and another $9 million in 2021 for further example. Wiregrass Technical College, located in Douglas, population 11,900, was awarded $4.9 million last year.

The final budget for fiscal year 2022 is scheduled to make its way to Kemp’s desk at the end of March.

Seals is hoping the need for high-level training for jobs made even more crucial due to the current pandemic will fortify the request for the $3.2 million needed for the center.

“This year, because of the urgency created by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s even more important to get it done,” said Seals about the proposed project.

Asked why she thinks the project proposals for Atlanta Technical College have not been funded, she said, “We’re looking forward to being in the 2022 budget. We are appreciative of the legislators who are advocating on our behalf and we’re hoping for a level of equity and fair consideration as it relates to resources across the state.”

This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.

 

(Photo: Courtesy of Atlanta Technical College)

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