Since World War II, Georgia’s oldest technical college has been meeting the demands of occupational training for students. As the demand for technical training grew, more courses were added. Today, the Clarkesville site – about 90 miles northeast of Atlanta – is the main campus for the sprawling North Georgia Technical College, one of 22 such schools across the state. The school serves about 2,500 students total, many of whom are non-traditional commuters looking for new jobs, developing workforce skills, or seeking an alternative to a four-year college.
Patrick Ledford is the Career Placement and Development Director for all three campuses. Yet, until 2015 when Ledford heard about VirtualJobShadow.com, he says there was still a gap between employers and students finding a position that allowed them to make meaningful career choices.
“Basically, I help students become more employable,” he says. “That includes resume building, interview skills, and soft training through workshops and classroom presentations. Building relationships with surrounding employers is a big part of my job. I also serve on state Department of Labor committees, conduct placement testing for the college, and work with alumni who may need help with employment.”
The college has an impressive 92 percent work placement rate for graduates, and Ledford tracks the jobs in order to verify where graduates and other students are employed.
VirtualJobShadow.com for College Success
“We already had a career exploration dashboard,” says Ledford, “but there was no website I was aware of that provided videos and other resources combined, from how to compare colleges to Department of Labor stats. VirtualJobShadow.com is an interactive platform that integrates all these resources. “To have these all-inclusive was pretty awesome, making career exploration much easier for students and instructors, as opposed to sending them to different links. It saved them, and us, time.”
VirtualJobShadow.com is utilized at all three campuses by students enrolled in College Success classes, a mandatory credited course for students entering the school. They have the ability to use the resources on the interactive platform during their studies and beyond. “Even after they graduate,” Ledford says, “they still have an account and can access the site as alumni. We added our North Georgia Tech logo, local news, local resources, and a job link for referral, which makes the site more realistic to students. We also use VirtualJobShadow.com when we provide instruction in resume building, so that if anyone comes to see me about Career Exploration, we can get them into an account and tie it all together.”
Reactions from Students and Staff
“The most positive reaction is in the first-hand accounts of seeing a professional already in the students’ chosen career field,” says Ledford. “The site is also a good tool for one-on-one presentations, especially if someone is a visual learner.”
“A lot of our students report they also like the Resume Builder and find it very user-friendly,” he says. “Instructors like the all-inclusiveness of VirtualJobShadow.com, having one resource with many features. Anytime you have something that helps you bridge the gap between a student graduating and finding the career they want, that’s a useful tool.”
Career exploration on the VirtualJobShadow.com site appears to fall within the medical career fields, mostly nursing, trauma, or critical care, says Ledford; programs which are offered in the school curriculum. However, the school-- and the utilization of VirtualJobShadow.com -- is more than about just finding a job in a particular career field, he says. “It’s also about furthering the students’ education. When they can compare colleges, retrieve data, and get their questions answered about training and jobs on one website, it’s very valuable.”
Meeting the Demands of the Local Job Market
Ledford says in the north Georgia region, a rural, primarily agricultural part of the state, there is “no economic development problem.” Rather, the problem is finding enough trained employees to meet high demand in local industries.
Ledford says that the state of Georgia does not have an economic development problem in the sense of the number of available jobs, but rather the workforce to help those companies grow. For his area, a rural, primarily agricultural region in the northeastern part of the state, the problem is finding enough trained employees to meet high demand in local industries. The jobs are present, but new companies cannot come in and established companies cannot grow unless the talent is there.
“That’s why we have a high job placement rate of almost 100 percent,” he says. “For example, jobs are coming back in welding and machine tooling. We have a strong nursing program and all of those graduates find jobs. There’s an ongoing need in automotive and air conditioning. After the economic downturn in 2008, we’re now beginning to see engineering jobs return. Computer IT positions, pharmacy, law enforcement, EMT are always in demand. The job market around here is mostly manufacturing, so I’d say it’s a good time to be in the skilled trade business.”
Building Regional Partnerships
Ledford says through Career Placement and Development, each program at North Georgia Tech must serve the eight surrounding counties so that students can find an occupation within their home region. He says the school does a good job of building connections through marketing and cultivating strong economic development relationships.
“Plus,” he adds, “we’ve been here a long time. A lot of businesses come to us and rely on us to provide the type of trained employees they need. If a student is interested in learning a trade, or returning to school, our programs offer variety and affordability. The bottom line is that we have a lot of systems in place at North Georgia Technical College, including VirtualJobShadow.com, that are designed to help our students become successful. You can start here, but then you can go anywhere.”
VirtualJobShadow.com provides career exploration resources for K-12, post-secondary institutions, and workforce development programs nationwide. To learn more, please visit VirtualJobShadow.com.