One step of changing the economy in East Central Georgia took place last Thursday, and progress was immediately shown.
Commencement exercises for the first Energy and Industrial Construction Program class of East Central Georgia Work Force Development Center was held at the One Stop facility in Thomson.
Seven graduates received their Carpentry I certification and hard hats. A few weeks earlier, those students had been given jobs at Plant Vogtle, where they were working as laborers until they received their certification.
"When I see the news about unemployment, I get upset," said Joyce Blevins, director of One Stop. "But, when I see all these people and how easy it was for them to get a job, I hope everybody will hear about them and get a job, too."
One Stop is a state-funded learning center which trains people for better paying jobs throughout Georgia and South Carolina. The center recently received a grant to train construction workers through Shaw Power Group and HB Training and Consulting for Georgia Power Company at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, as well as two additional nuclear reactor plants near Summerville, S.C.
After the ceremony, the graduates talked about looking forward to the promise of new work. While studying for their certification, they had been working for several weeks at the nuclear plant, digging post holes and pushing wheelbarrows. Even though it was hard work, many of them said they were just glad to be doing something.
"I'm getting paid more as a laborer than I was when I was drawing unemployment," said Jonathan Tankersley, a student from Grovetown.
Tim Daniels, who moved to McDuffie County to live with family when he lost his job in Florida, said he liked the training class at One Stop, because it allowed him to work at his own pace, and he was staying after work to study electrical wiring. The training at One Stop is taught by John Ambrosia and Jack Staver of HB Training and Consulting.
"It's fun meeting people who know more about everything than I do," Mr. Daniels said. "I like to pick their brains and learn from them. John and Jack are both professionals that I admire, and it's important to me to emulate somebody like them."
Mrs. Blevins said another class of 11 is set to receive their certification this week. Jack Williams, the local workforce development manager of Shaw, said the carpentry certification classes taught carpentry basics and industrial carpentry, OSHA safety certification and soft skills such as communication. Mr. Williams said the certification helps the graduates immediately with employment and ensures they will be "first picks" when other reactors open.
"It will have far-reaching affects on the economy," Mr. Williams said. "Getting all these people jobs is going to stir the economy. And we can't stir the economy until we get people working in the private sector."
Graduates of the first class include Mr. Daniels of McDuffie County, Michael Materna, Travis Swift and Rodney Williams of Columbia County, Jonathan Tankersley of Richmond County, Pam Tanton of Glascock County and Larodus Stephens of Taliaferro County.