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Tech schools have to accommodate more students



November 10, 2009 –  (WALB) 2,400  people in the Albany Metro area lost their jobs over the last year. The area's unemployment rate is up to 10.2 percent.  1,400 jobs lost this year at Cooper Tire haven't helped.

Many of those Cooper workers turned to area technical colleges to learn new skills. They're filling up mechanics, carpentry, and heating and air conditioning classes.

On average it takes more than six months to find a new job. Many Cooper Tire employees they've given up the job search for now, and are concentrating on classes and learning new skills to get another job down the road. It's got Albany Tech adding weekend classes for some trades to accommodate more students.

From making the tires that keep vehicles rolling to learning how to fix the entire vehicle, many Cooper Tire employees haven't reentered the work force, but instead are learning a new skill.

"With Cooper Tire closing we've got a lot of Cooper Tire employees, former employees that are in my program, that are retraining," said Lynn Tanner. The majority of Lynn Tanner's mechanics class at Moultrie Technical College is former Cooper employees, forcing a waiting list.

After 14 years at Cooper Tire, Susie Clyde's now building on her roots, carpentry, at Albany Technical College.  "That's what I grew up with all my life."

With high unemployment, it's a job she hopes will be more recession proof.  "Carpentry comes into your everyday life whether we know it or not, it falls right in line because there's hurricanes, tornados happening all the time and home improvements need to be done."

Instructors say it's not just Cooper Tire employees, with the state unemployment rate above 10%, others too are looking for new skills instead of new jobs.

"They are realizing that number one they need more skill to maintain their job or to advance in their job or if they've lost their job they need additional training in order to get a replacement job," said Albany Technical Instructor Wayne Barnette.

With several semesters to go, Clyde hopes one day to be her own boss. "I don't think it will be a difficult start up. There are a lot of women in construction and I feel like I have a good chance at construction because I've been doing it most of my life."

Giving her a new career that could last through retirement.

Each Albany Technical College graduate in a standards based program comes with a warranty, guaranteeing an employer that if the student's skills don't produce quality work, Albany Technical College will retrain them at the college's expense. Students also get a work ethic grade that's shared with employers.

By Jennifer Emert

 

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