Low survey response, but CCA advocates press ahead

FCCA’s Russ Moore. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Fewer than one in 10 Fayette businesses responded to a survey conducted to assess future employment needs and how a proposed Fayette College and Career Academy might help train a workforce to fill those coming employment needs, the Fayette County Board of Education was told Monday night.

A variety of job types were identified in the survey even though less than 10 percent of the targeted companies responded to the voluntary survey.

The business and industry data accumulated in the survey will be followed by another set of data amassed by the school system to assess the perspective of students, parents and school system staff.

Despite the low level of responses from the business community, the advocates of a Fayette College and Career Academy are pressing ahead, delivering eight recommendations to the school board Monday night.

FCCA spokesman Russ Moore said the next step in the process includes establishing seven working groups of stakeholders, to develop the charter and CCA grant applications and to obtain a school board decision in the fall.

Moore told board members he would like to see school system staff take a greater role in the FCCA discussions with the organization’s steering committee.

“I understand the parameters of the steering committee,” Superintendent Jody Barrow said in response. “One of the most critical partners are the children, their parents and the staff. Once school starts, we need to reach out to them and gather data (pertaining to their view of the needs of a college and career academy), put it with the business and industry data and see where they intersect.”

Barrow and school board members said the total data would be needed to make an informed decision on the school system’s direction.

“Only about one in 10 targeted employers, members of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and other major employers, responded to this completely voluntary survey,” Moore said in the report. “Even though a somewhat successful effort was made to reach large employers (more than 33 percent of respondents are organizations employing more than 100 people), the vast majority of local employers did not participate. With additional engagement, the actual impact this partnership could have on the regional workforce could be conservatively multiplied by a factor of five.“

The incorporation of the Fayette College and Career Academy, Inc., followed community discussions during 2012. FCCA, with funds from the Fayette County Board of Education, hired Moore and Newnan-based Seamless Education Association to perform a needs assessment of local and regional employers. Moore has worked with a number of other school state systems to design and obtain state grant dollars to implement CCA programs.

FCCA used the ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate) model process developed by the Central Educational Center in Newnan. The process blends academics with vocational training, high school with college, and public education with the real world.

Moore gave an overview of the workforce development statistics contained in the 132-page survey report conducted from December to March which included responses from 78 small, medium and large area companies representing 43 percent of the Fayette County workforce.

“Respondents represented a wide array of local businesses, including manufacturing, education, healthcare, financial services and banking, automotive, food service, utilities and others,” Moore said. “The majority of respondents had more than 100 employees and did not have significant problems with turnover rate. The major factors behind employee turnover, though, were deficient skills, attendance or performance.”

Moore said the 78 respondents identified 102 unique job titles currently held by more than 4,200 employees. Those employers will need to add nearly 4,500 new employees with the same titles within five years, more than doubling local employment for these major job titles.

“The minimum educational requirement for the majority of jobs needed was a high school diploma. Because of the diverse and comprehensive nature of the FCCA partnership, 100 percent of needed jobs can be filled by employees trained at some level by the partners in Fayette County collaborating to run a college and career academy,” said Moore.

Of the job titles listed, those considered of greatest need in the next five years included certified nursing assistants, tutors, detention officers, deputy sheriffs, firefighters/EMTs, instructors, medical assistants, welders, machine operators, vision technicians, veterinary technicians, volunteer medical providers and police officers.

Moore also noted local sectors expected to experience employment needs in the next five years include healthcare, service employers, education, manufacturing, government, utilities and aviation.

Still other local employment opportunities expected in the next five years include registered nurses, physical therapists, administrative assistants, motorized equipment technicians, custodians, forklift operators, tellers and speech language pathologists.

Moore noted that, as voluntarily reported numbers, the survey data are not comprehensive figures describing all county-wide employment needs, nor are they statistical samples from which county totals or averages can be derived.  

One of the survey respondents was Delta Airlines, which employs 3,000 Fayette residents.

Moore also noted that a 10 percent employer response was not out of the norm for such surveys.

Moore in the presentation told board members the survey came with eight data-driven recommendations.

The first recommendation is that Fayette initiate a CCA. Fayette County has more than proven its capacity, resources, interest and engagement for planning, opening and operating a premier college and career academy, the report said.

The second recommendation noted, based on survey data, is that planners should focus at a minimum on developing curriculum solutions that support growth in the following employment sectors and specific job titles. Top job sectors include healthcare, service employment, education, manufacturing, government, utility and aviation.

The third recommendation asserts that the programs that make up a Work-Based Learning (WBL) program at both the secondary and post-secondary levels in most communities appear to be nearly non-existent in Fayette.  

“Certainly they are not connecting with the employers with the greatest documented needs. Planners should enhance what is working and create vibrant new opportunities through job-shadowing, internships and apprenticeships (at a minimum) for high school students at all high schools, supported by seamless post-secondary offerings with Southern Crescent Technical College and Clayton State University. Include measurable goals in the charter application about improving WBL and introducing career concepts in Fayette elementary and middle school,” the survey report said.

The fourth recommendation dealt with college dual-enrollment and is one for which Fayette is primed to take advantage.

“The state has made it apparent, and this report’s data make plain as well, that college dual-enrollment is the wave of the future for K-12 students. Fifty-three percent of needed jobs in this survey require college-level training for job entry, and 63 percent of all major jobs in this survey can be accessed merely by completing high school and technical college programs. Fayette County has more opportunity to house college partners than any other startup community partnership in Georgia. This community should take full advantage of the vision and capacity of these colleges to help children make their own educations relevant for the rest of their lives through dual-enrollment opportunities (also known as ACCEL, Move On When Ready, and Technical Certificates of Credit leading to Associate Degrees),” Moore said.

Recommendation five challenged Fayette to leverage the participation of community partners.

“Leverage the commitments and assistance of private sector partners by providing innovations in the college and career academy such as business incubators, distance learning/real-time mentoring, and digital portfolios – all of which are ‘real world solutions’ – as curriculum enhancements. Walls, whether literal, metaphorical or policy-related, can become barriers; Fayette County’s students need as many pathways to the world as our community can provide,” the report said.

The sixth recommendation proposed resupplying certain job categories with new employees so the aging population in those categories can be effectively replaced.

“Respond to concerns about pending retirements in several major job titles (certified nursing assistant, police and fire officers, and EMTs) and also the relatively high age ranges of employees in several sectors (healthcare, education, manufacturing and utilities),” said Moore. “Create a measurable goal in the charter application of lowering the average age of employees in targeted sectors and major job titles.”

Recommendation seven suggested Fayette planners should focus on equally tangible generic skills and soft skills. In particular, generic skills imbedded in career and technical education and academic courses should key on listening, oral communication, reading and writing. Soft skills should key on attendance and include significant reinforcement of teamwork, character, communication, and attitude.

The eighth recommendation dealt with the entry of Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County.

“Fayette’s planners are very excited about the opportunity for job creation and economic development made possible by the recent location of Pinewood Atlanta’s movie and TV production facilities in Fayette County, as well as the growing media and entertainment industry in the region. The steering committee should access the jobs data being provided soon by Pinewood Atlanta’s founders and include it in ongoing needs assessment, curriculum, facility, personnel and financial planning,” said Moore.

The Fayette County Board of Education nearly a year ago approved the expenditure of $36,000 to hire Moore for one year and $5,000 for the needs assessment. The decision came on a 3-2 vote, with former board member Terri Smith, former board member Janet Smola and current board member Leonard Presberg in favor and with board members Marion Key and Bob Todd opposed.

It is noteworthy that Todd and Key approximately four years ago suggested that Fayette graduates and their parents be surveyed about the potential need to include more curriculum offerings that would help with future employment opportunities. Both also suggested that career tech offerings be expanded. Neither of the suggestions received any response from the other three board members at that time.

Moore said FCCA also received planning funding from Coweta-Fayette Electric Membership Corporation, Southern Crescent Technical College, Fayette County Development Authority, Georgia Power Company, Georgia Department of Education and 15 other corporations, governments, nonprofits, and individuals.

To date, FCCA has received a total of $86,500 in donations.

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