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Leaders: skilled workforce needed
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Following the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Newton County College and Career Academy, the annual Workforce Development Summit was held in the new building last Tuesday.

The conference focused on the need for an educated and skilled workforce in the state - especially in manufacturing.

Ga. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle gave opening remarks reinforcing the importance of having a skilled workforce in our state. With a skilled workforce, Ga. can strategically attract and keep manufacturing companies.

"If they see a deficit in the workforce, they will go to another state," said Cagle.

Lt. Gov. Cagle's remarks were then followed by two panel discussions.

In the first panel discussion, Roger Harrison, Vice President of Economic Development at the Covington-Newton Chamber of Commerce, said Newton County was in a good location to attract such companies.

"We have five exits on 1-20," said Harrison, also noting the county's close proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Susie Haggard, senior regional project manager for the Ga. Department of Economic Development, spoke about the importance of existing industry and its contributions into rehabilitating the economy.

Seventy percent of the expansion has been in existing industry, according to Haggard.

"Most workers have been brought back in after economic downturn," said Haggard.

However, she says that as those in workforce begin to retire and move out, skilled workers will be needed to fill the vacancies.

"Those skills are something we're going to have to back fill," she said.

John Zegers, Director of the Centers of Innovation and Manufacturing, agreed with Haggard that Ga. needs to "address the skills gap."

In a study conducted by his organization, 10 of the 12 regions surveyed listed workforce development as top priority.

Zegers said the industry itself needs to become involved in helping the state educate the workforce.

"Industry must take the lead in developing the curriculum," said Zegers. "We need to have a strong partnership."

In her keynote address, Beth Herman spoke about how those in the workforce need to embrace technology and learn how to use it.

"There is no place in the workplace for someone who can't use technology," said Herman.