The Georgia state budget for fiscal year 2022 has been signed and with that will come billions of dollars in funding for education.
Along with the funding that is earmarked for public schools, millions will also be funneled towards higher education, particularly to the Technical College System of Georgia.
In the past the money that went to the technical colleges did not always make it to each of the 22 schools, which have 80 campuses between them. Atlanta Technical College, the only member of the system in Atlanta, was usually the institution on the outside looking in.
This year is different. “Our entire Atlanta Technical College community is excited to receive state funding in support of the Center for Transportation and Logistics,” said Atlanta Technical College President Dr. Victoria Seals. “I know that our instructors and staff are relieved to finally have a dedicated, professional facility in which to train our students.”
That “dedicated, professional facility” will take up $3.2 million of that budget (the 2022 fiscal year begins in July of this year) and will go towards continuing to educate students at Atlanta Technical College, a two-year commuter school that has educated and trained metro Atlanta students looking to prepare for careers in a number of trades.
Along with automotive technology, barbering, cosmetology, culinary arts and hotel restaurant-tourism management, to name a few programs, the Transportation and Logistics program is one that remains vital to metro Atlantans looking to begin careers in truck driving.
The news of the budgetary improvements, even if just for a year, are being welcomed all over campus. “This excellent news,” said Vicki L. Seagraves, the Commercial Driver’s License Coordinator at Atlanta Tech.
“The CDL program will definitely benefit from it. The newer equipment and spacious lot will be very beneficial to students and staff. Our students will start strong, stay strong and finish strong.”
Each year the 22 technical colleges within the Technical College System of Georgia submit proposals for special project funding.
Prior to this year Atlanta Tech had not received capital outlay funding for a decade. This in no way guarantees Atlanta Tech will receive further funding but it’s a start. “Every year is a new budget cycle and a new challenge and opportunity to communicate the needs of our college,” said Seals.
“We are hopeful that our efforts this year have enlightened the legislators of who we are and the value we add to the community. Hopefully we will remain on their radar in a positive and meaningful way.”
The Commercial Truck Drivers certificate program (8 weeks, 3 classes), which focuses on transportation and logistics, is an even more necessary and essential line of work today.
Graduates of the program not only receive their CDL but the ability to change their lives, something Seals is very proud of the budget proposal making the grade. She believes there were a number of reasons why the funding was finally signed off on.
“I think there were a combination of factors that contributed to the proposal gaining support and ultimately funding,” she said. “The past year demonstrated the elevated need for truck drivers and logistics professionals.”
Seals described those professional drivers as “essential workers” and continued, “Additionally, our team and our advocates did a great job of informing the appropriations committees of the need for this project in our service area. I think the fact that our college has a $250 million regional economic impact confirmed that we are more than worth the investment and will provide the state a great return of interest.”
The average annual salary of an individual (ages 18 and above) in Georgia is $28,283 according to the United States Census Bureau.
For the average household in Georgia the bureau has that number at $55,679. In comparison, commercial truck drivers can make $40,000 annually at the start of their career.
Recently a shortage in truck drivers, both due to the current pandemic, lack of experienced drivers and retirements, has led to an immediacy that Atlanat tech graduates can more than fill.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 had a shortfall of truck drivers that has negatively affected the industry. There were nearly 66,000 less drivers on the road than during 2019.
Broken up into three disciplines -Avionics Maintenance Technology, Commercial Truck Driving and Logistics and Supply Chain Management- the Transportation and Logistics Programs support training for CDLs, diesel mechanics, logistics managers, supply chain specialists and warehousing.
Now more than ever those jobs and other associated positions are available in massive numbers. The Amazon, FedEx and United States Postal Service packages making their way to homes all around the state show no sign of slowing down.
Seals also credited The Atlanta Voice’s coverage of the proposal (March 12, 2021) for generating some buzz. “I am appreciative of Ms. Ware, The Atlanta Voice Publisher, and her service on our board,” said Seals. “I think the collective voices of all our advocates made the differences in this process and that includes the great work by the Atlanta Voice team.”