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Albany Tech adjusts to changing expectations

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- The times, they are a changin'.

Speaking before the Dougherty County Rotary Club Tuesday at Doublegate Country Club, Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker said technical schools were adapting to a changing workplace.

"An auto mechanic from 10 years ago would open a car hood today and have a hard time because of advances in the automotive industry," Parker said. "Today's tech schools are requiring academic programs because there are no more programs that teach you just to work with your hands.

"Today, you need to learn how to read, write, do some math and work with your hands. This isn't your daddy's tech school anymore."

To that end, Parker said the state's 28 technical colleges are placing a greater emphasis on adult education. Albany Technical College helped 419 people obtain their GEDs last year and have assisted 315 through May of this year.

"You can't be functionally illiterate and expect to find a good job," Parker said. "There is a direct correlation between education and poverty. We can't help a person who can't read."

The local technical college offers three credited programs: associate of applied science, diplomas and certifications.

Parker said the school has seen steady increases in enrollment over the past three years. In 2008, Albany Tech had an enrollment of 4,904, in 2009 it moved to 5,373 and this year's enrollment peaked at 7,012.

In addition to providing trained and well-educated future employees to the school's seven-county area, Albany Tech also pumps money into the regional economy by awarding $7.3 million per year in financial aid.

"More than 75 percent of our students are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds," Parker said. "So that money is important."

Parker added that the school graduated 1,631 students in 2008, 2,061 last year and more than 2,000 so far this year.

"We warranty all of our graduates," Parker said. "If an employer has a problem with one of our graduates because of something we failed to teach them we will retrain (the employee) at our own cost.

"But, we only usually have nine or 10 per year."