VALDOSTA — Wiregrass Tech observed the Seventh Annual National Apprenticeship Week by highlighting the value of registered apprenticeships for growing South Georgia’s skilled workforce.

The Technical College System of Georgia and its 22 technical colleges serve as registered apprenticeship sponsors making it the largest registered apprenticeship network in the state, college officials said in a statement. 

In recent years, Wiregrass has sponsored more than 70 apprentices for 28 local employers. Currently, Wiregrass has 24 active apprentices working for eight local employers, college officials said.

“At MANA here in Fitzgerald, we recognize that the workforce for the manufacturing sector is changing rapidly. For us to remain competitive in our market, we must embrace these changes or we will fall behind,” said Harry Broughton, MANA nutrition director of operations. “Specifically, there are fewer and fewer low- and medium-skilled jobs. Automation is changing our industry. 

"Therefore, we must attract a labor force to support increasing layers of automation. This is when we reached out to Wiregrass to learn what we could do to attack the issue. We shared the issue with the staff at Wiregrass and began to learn about their apprentice program. I am proud to say Wiregrass did a great job identifying a candidate and we now have him on our team. We intend to expand the program as we grow.”

“Apprenticeships represent another way we can meet the workforce needs of our local employers and Wiregrass is thrilled to offer our students and local business and industry this opportunity,” Wiregrass President DeAnnia Clements said. “We currently have 17 apprenticeship completers who received a nationally recognized certificate of completion. This is workforce development at its best.”

Currently, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are more than 9,000 active apprentices throughout Georgia, which continues the state’s rise in apprenticeship activity. The figure is expected to grow with the additional apprenticeship funding available to Georgia employers and apprentices, such as the Apprenticeship State Expansion Grant and Georgia’s HOPE Career Grant, college officials said.

To get involved or learn more about Wiregrass Tech’s Apprenticeship Program, contact Nicole West, Wiregrass executive director of department affairs, (229) 333-2100, ext. 4837, or by email at Nicole.west@wiregrass.edu. The college is currently accepting new students for spring semester; classes begin Jan. 10. Visit Wiregrass.edu to learn more. 

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