It is part of the incentive package the state offered to attract one of the leading healthcare industries to Covington: Georgia Quick Start would build a training facility near the new Baxter campus and offer customized training to its employees.
That was one of the reasons Baxter chose to build the $1 billion dollar, state-of-the art manufacturing facility for plasma fractionation, the process of separating, purifying and processing proteins out of plasma, said Gabe Khouli, Communications Specialist for the company.
Though it’s not the first time the agency has provided customized training to industries in its over 40 year history. Quick Start has worked with companies like KIA, Ikea, Bass Pro and Perdue attract manufacturing and industry to the state by developing customized training programs.
It is the first time Quick Start has built a facility from the ground up to support the training of a future work force.
“Bio-technology is a big growth area for the future,” said Rodger L. Brown, Executive Director of Marketing and Strategic Media, QuickStart Georgia. “By attracting a major player like Baxter and by building the Georgia BioScience Training Center, the state [attracts] jobs and [invests] in the creation of good, high-paying jobs for the future.”
“Working closely with manufacturers and industries is not unusual because there’s so many jobs are involved, many of which will hopefully go to GTC and residents of neighboring counties,” said Dr. Jabari Simama, President, Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Last year, he said, Georgia’s technical college system provided over 80,000 hours of customized training for 71 individual companies.”
Simama said the colleges’ relationships are not with the companies but with Quick Start. “Quick Start is in the process of hiring staff for a training facility the state is providing. Quick Start recently hired a biology instructor who is now working with [them] in the area of biological science curriculum.
“The training facilities will be in Newton County, but there are a lot of counties adjacent,” he said. “We’re going to do as much as we can to prepare our students for those 1,400 jobs [at Baxter]. Those are actual jobs.”
The return on the Quick Start’s investment in building a training center and customizing training for new manufacturing and service industries moving into the state, is significant, said Brown.
“These companies come here and create jobs,” he said. “There are direct jobs and indirect jobs, the latter being jobs that support the needs of those working at these companies.”
The state also gets a return on its investment through payroll and sales taxes. “It helps develop the overall economy.”
The new training facility isn’t expected to open until late spring this year. However, “the relationship that we’re developing with Baxter through Quick Start has already beginning to unfold,” said Simama. “We are allowing to use our facilities in Newton in order to hold orientation session for new workers and to provide training for new hires for supervisory skills.
Brown said the customized training is provided free, something companies would normally have to purchase. Building the training center across the street from the Baxter campus in Covington, “pretty much guarantees that they will have qualified skilled work force that meets their needs as they grow. It helps ensures their success.”
While part of the new facility will be used for customized training for Baxter employees, other areas will be used to provide courses leading towards certification or a degree in various bio-technology fields. The BioScience Training Center is part of the Athens Technical College, itself part of a network of 23 technical colleges around the state. As with other manufacturing and service industries attracted to the state by incentives such as Quick Start training, many of the technical colleges will be working with Quick Start on Baxter’ customized training, according to Simama said.
“In addition to the jobs, Baxter has said it is willing to work with us and other colleges to provide internship opportunities,” Simama said. “ I think the interns will probably have a leg up – once they complete their studies in getting a leg up.
“Finishing our degree [program] will give them a ticket into the training that will eventually get them in to the work force,” he said.
Those who have completed the training needed to meet basic qualifications for employment in the bio-science and bio-technology fields, could apply for positions at Baxter. That’s when the customized Quick Start training begins.
The first step, Brown agrees, is to enroll in a technical college and earn the degree or certification. “Then you can go apply to Baxter and be eligible for the pre-employment assessment.
The assessment is one of two ways Quick Start provides training, he said, The first is the pre-employment assessment. “People apply to Baxter and Baxter will then select candidates to go through an assessment exercise,” he said. “We assess them against the program customized for Baxter, give information to Baxter, then they make a selection and job offer.”
The second step happens when the new employee returns for post-hire training.
“The training is a little more job specific,” said Brown. “We have teams of people working with Baxter [who are] subject matter experts.”
Experience and educational requirements vary according to the job available, said Khouli. For example, “education requirements range from high school diplomas to advanced degrees in science and engineering.”
Khouli said that while production isn’t expected to begin at the new Baxter campus in Covington, jobs are continually posted and updated at the company’s website.