(The Center Square) — A Georgia business group says a state committee’s efforts to help students learn essential trades and skills is “a step in the right direction.”
The Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages, established by Senate Resolution 175, was asked to find ways to produce more dual enrollment students and develop skilled younger workers.
Under Georgia’s Dual Enrollment Program, students at eligible public schools, private high schools or home-study programs can start taking college classes while still in high school.
“One of the number one needs that always comes up year in and year out is workforce,” state Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, said during an August hearing. “How do we attract talent to come to rural parts of the state?”
Among its recommendations, the committee wants lawmakers to simplify and streamline existing aspects of the Dual Enrollment. They also want to develop a clear definition of what constitutes high-demand careers and corresponding coursework.
“Our small businesses applaud the efforts of the study committee to address the workforce issue in Georgia,” National Federation of Independent Business State Director Hunter Loggins told The Center Square via email.
“Anything to make it easier and more appealing for students to learn essential trades and skills is a step in the right direction,” Loggins added. “This committee, along with the Senate’s study committees on workforce and truck driver shortages and the governor through his Georgia Match program, understand that having a healthy, robust workforce is key to remaining the No. 1 state to do business.”
The committee is one of several state lawmakers established to explore a prolonged worker shortage. State officials routinely tout the state’s low unemployment rate, though labor numbers show roughly 39% of Georgia’s working-age population isn’t participating in the workforce.
“We’re not trying to fix something that’s broken,” state Rep. Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville, said during an August hearing. “We’re just trying to put more oil in the machine.”
According to an analysis from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, the dual enrollment program has a $76 million budget for fiscal 2024, a $7 million reduction.
The final report recommended giving an undetermined amount of additional funding for Technical College System of Georgia instructors and high school counselor positions. It also proposed performing an “ongoing return on investment analysis.”
Committee members want lawmakers to nix the sunset provision of Senate Bill 86, which creates a three-year pilot program allowing some dual enrollment students to access HOPE Grant funds for select Career Technical and Agricultural Education courses. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed the measure into law earlier this year.
“We’ve been getting it right for a long time, and we’re about to make it better,” Brass said.