The board of education and the superintendents in our service delivery area were successful in improving the quality of instruction in secondary education and increasing the percentage of high school graduates. One result of these efforts has been the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy, which has shifted the paradigm for secondary education. Instruction for students in secondary education is far more relevant than say ten years ago.
The Georgia Department of Education, the Technical College System of Georgia, and the University System of Georgia have utilized the resources available to them to shorten pathways from high school to college admission and graduation. Consequently, most high school students can earn a collegiate workforce certification and/or an associate degree by their high school graduation date. We should feel confident this progress will not be reversed.
High school graduates are increasingly doing their part in maintaining Georgia’s position as the number one state in the country to do business. However, we still have acute worker shortages for well-prepared technical educated workers. Only high school dual enrolled students starting the 12th grade in this fall are available to enter the workforce this spring. The number of high school students available to dual enroll is limited by decreasing 9th through 12th grade class sizes. In summary, there will not be an adequate number of high school graduates to fill this year’s vacancies. The question then is this: what can be done to encourage and to prepare young adults that may have dropped out of high school to fill the workforce gap?
Consequently, the most important program offered by Albany Technical College is adult education. Seven of the counties in our SDA have high school graduation rates below the state and national averages. Therefore, we should not be surprised by the results listed below. According to Tim Scott’s and Corey Booker’s Bipartisan Plan to Wage a Smart War on Poverty, Albany Technical College operates in a region of Georgia that is considered economically distressed. Some of the economic descriptors that point in the wrong direction are:
- The majority of the citizens of seven 7 of the counties that we serve live in economically distressed zip codes
- 7 counties have historic high school dropout rates above 17%
- 7 counties have poverty rates above the national average
- 5 counties have labor force participation rates below 60 percent
- 7 counties have a median family income below the national average
- 6 counties are among the 20 poorest counties in Georgia
- 6 counties are considered distressed
- 1 county is considered at risk
- Only 1 county is considered prosperous
- Only 2 zip codes in eight counties are considered prosperous
- 80% of the citizens of Dougherty County live in a distressed zip code.
There is an obvious correlation (and causation) between high school completion and every description of economic vitality. Again, adult education is our most important program. Albany Technical College’s first priority should be to increase dual enrolled adult education students. This can be done (1) through traditional ATB options or (2) through developing and adopting rigorous and relevant new alternatives to the high school diploma/GED. The alternative is to continue to leave 600 high paying jobs vacant each year while 600 adults under produce for their families.