Georgia high-schoolers who want immediate workplace experience and training could more easily become apprentices under a new $1.2 million state apprenticeship program being considered in the state Senate.

The Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Wednesday debated Senate Bill 379, which would create the new program under the Technical College System of Georgia.

“Our goal is to connect the business community, the employers, with employees in certain high demand fields,” said Sen. Brian Strickland, a McDonough Republican.

The new plan would build off existing efforts, including a federal apprenticeship program and a German-certified apprenticeship program that trains manufacturing technicians in Coweta County.

Georgia had just under 9,000 students in federally funded apprenticeship programs in 2020, according to figures provided by Strickland, but South Carolina, with less than half of Georgia’s population, has more than 20,000 federally-funded apprenticeship.

“Going to four years of college and getting a psychology degree is not necessarily a good career path,” said Mark Woodall, a lobbyist for Associated General Contractors of Georgia

Employers could apply to host up to five apprentices at a time, collecting up to $10,000 each time a student completes the program. Gov. Brian Kemp has proposed $1.2 million in the budget year beginning July 1 to fund the effort, Strickland said.

The technical college system and the state Office of Workforce Development would create a list of high demand jobs. Training could start when students are 15, typically when they are a sophomore in high school.

Strickland said the apprentices would be paid for their work, and would not be required to keep working for the company that trained them after graduating from high school. The program wouldn’t prevent them from going on to college if they choose.

“They have an option of what they want to do,” said David Keller, the retired CEO of E.G.O. North America, a manufacturer of appliance parts that has participated in Coweta County’s program since its launch in 2007. Keller said his company hired all four of its apprentices who completed the program, while other companies have seen more students go to college.

Keller said companies invest about $25,000 in apprentices over the three years.

Roy Bowen, president of Georgia Association of Manufacturers, urged the committee to amend the proposal to make large businesses eligible, as well as small and medium-sized businesses.

“There’s not one manufacturing company today that’s not in dire need of skilled labor, and this helps address that,” Bowen said.



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