A feasibility study recently conducted by the DeKalb Technical College Foundation found Newton County had a shortage of skilled workers to meet employers' hiring needs in healthcare, public safety and engineering technology.
Bill Gohdes, DTC dean of academic operations, said both the Covington and Newton campuses of the college will implement programs to expand the training capacity for these critical needs areas.
DTC's entire Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program will move from the Clarkston Campus to the Newton Center on Bob Williams Parkway.
"The reason for moving the LPN program is very cut-and-dry," Gohdes said. "We could not find clinical sites for students in DeKalb County, so that kind of forced our hand."
He added Newton Medical Center and Rockdale Medical Center officials have been extremely accommodating with their facilities and services in providing clinical experience for nursing students.
"That was a very happy circumstance that allowed us not to lose that program," Gohdes said.
More Newton County students enrolled in nursing related programs between 2003 and 2007 than all other program areas combined. The LPN relocation will allow two classes to intern a year rather than only one.
Also at the Newton Center, plans for the new Public Safety Academy are being implemented with the basic and intermediate EMT and paramedic program already in full operation.
He said the first responder courses were developed from direct dialogue with public safety officials.
DTC officials also plan to add fire fighter I and II courses to the current fire science technology program to provide needed field training.
Those courses would provide basic and more advanced hands-on training needed to become a firefighter while the fire science technology provides training in management skills.
"That impetus really came from the community," Gohdes said. "The chiefs were really telling us that they need to professionalize their managers and asking us to provide some course work."
Finally, the Newton Center is preparing to offer a peace officer standards and training (POST) program as part of the Public Safety Academy.
POST program completion is required for police officers.
A forensic lab to support the criminal justice and POST programs is being equipped through a generous donation from the PACTIV Corporation.
At the Covington Campus on Alcovy-Jersey Road, dual enrollment programs for high school students are expanding with the Certified Nursing Assistant and Criminal Justice Technical Certificates already being offered.
Articulation agreements which enable high school students to earn technical college credit for specific technical courses are also under development.
A new associate degree program in electronics and computer engineering technology will be offered at the Covington Campus beginning this summer.
"That program is designed to move students toward research and development," Gohdes said.
More Newton County students enrolled in the computer information systems program than any other program area between 2003 and 2007.
Gohdes said the engineering technology associate degree program will meet the accreditation standards of the American Board of Engineering Technology.
DTC and Southern Polytechnic College and University are working on an affiliation agreement that will enable those who earn a DTC engineering technology associate degree to articulate directly into the four-year bachelor's program at SPCU.
"In terms of working in the direction the governor would like to go," Gohdes said, "if we can prepare students for high-tech, high-skill jobs then if an industry is looking to expand or find a new home, those students in those programs are kind of an attraction.
"It's sort of an 'if you build it, they will come' thing."
Gohdes said because of limited state funding, almost all new programs offered at any college are based upon direct community need.
"It is becoming increasingly more important that we find support from the community," Gohdes said.
To meet funding needs for expensive equipment and the hire of new employees for the new courses to be offered in Newton County, DTCF has launched a major fundraising campaign.
Individual and business donors will be permanently recognized on the college's honor wall.
To become a DTC partner, call DTCF Executive Director Helen Mathis at (404) 297-3522 ext. 2523. For more information about new local programs, visit www.dekalbtech.edu.