By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)
School is back in session, and the days of summer are officially over. Baseball games, summer camps and vacations have been replaced with homework, after-school activities and Friday night lights. It is often said that education is a gift that can never be taken away, which is why I feel it’s very important to give Georgia students every opportunity for success.
Successful students today build tomorrow’s strong workforce, and that is why I am an enthusiastic supporter of Georgia’s College and Career Academy Network (GCCAN). Created in 2011 through legislation backed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Georgia’s College and Career Academies have nearly 15,000 students currently enrolled. These innovative learning centers provide an innovative way for business, industry and community leaders to team up with local high schools to develop a robust and energetic workforce. As of July 2015, 38 counties in Georgia are participating in a Career Academy.
There are currently 33 college and career academies in Georgia that provide over 269 programs in almost 40 different career pathways, many of which lead to a certificate upon completion. Popular programs include healthcare science, information technology, engineering, culinary arts, automotive, education, and welding. Every academy meets the unique needs of its community, and the structure is flexible. Some students experience a traditional high school environment while also attending the academy for parts of the day, while others attend the academy full-time.
Georgia’s academies have two purposes: to prepare students for their college and career goals, and to increase student achievement. These goals are accomplished by integrating career-based learning into lesson plans, offering dual credits for courses, and partnering with businesses to address local workforce needs. Shaw Industries, Caterpillar, Ford Next Generation, Georgia Power, AT&T, and Georgia (Film) Studio Infrastructure Alliance are just some of the Georgia businesses we can thank for the success of our career academies.
At this time, no counties within District 51 are participating in the Georgia College and Career Academy program. However, with our excellent schools, I think this may change within the next few years, especially with available financial support through the Office of College and Career Transitions. These grants are awarded to support the development of College and Career Academies in communities throughout Georgia. Although these grants are competitive, they allow up to $3 million in bonds to be used for infrastructure, and up to $150,000 in cash awards for operational start-up costs. These grants can be matched by local business partners who commit in-kind resources for the academy.
As a firm supporter of Georgia’s college and career academies, I believe they would be a great complement to District 51’s already exceptional schools. These academies have a bright future in Georgia, and I look forward to watching the program grow around the state—especially here in North Georgia.