“High demand career fields represent the occupations in each of Georgia’s key industries that are in-demand, pay an above average entry-level wage and are considered strong options for pursuing a successful career in Georgia,” said Dr. Heidi Popham, Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) president. “These occupations are critical to these industries’ success and Georgia’s economic health.”
These career fields are identified by the State of Georgia and reflect areas within the workforce where there are often more open positions than there are skilled workers to fill them, Dr. Popham explained. GNTC focuses on Aviation Maintenance Technology, Commercial Truck Driving and Nursing among high demand career options.
Since the late 1990s, there have been more workers in Aviation over the age of 60 than under age 30, said Jon Byrd, executive director of Aviation at GNTC and Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) state aviation advisor.
“The pandemic and employees taking early retirement escalated the shortage,” Byrd said. “As a result, companies employ two, sometimes three, new workers to replace the one employee that retired.”
Besides airlines, aviation maintenance facilities, corporate aviation departments, charter companies, first responders, flight schools, forestry departments, and utility inspection and repair departments need Aviation Maintenance Technicians, he said.
Wages for technicians vary greatly depending on the employer, facility location and volume of aircraft, he said. GNTC graduates typically earn $21 to $35 per hour as starting pay.
“While there is a lot of responsibility, the rewards can be great,” Byrd said. “The sense of accomplishment, achievement and overcoming challenges—all paired with flight benefits that many companies offer their employees—can make it a very satisfying career.”
Increased pay, good health insurance and benefits, the transition to automatic transmissions and new safety features—such as lane assist and proximity sensors—are making Commercial Truck Driving a more attractive career option, said Robert Browder, program director and instructor of Commercial Truck Driving at GNTC. Employers also understand that drivers want more time with their families.
“With the shortage of drivers, more local driving positions are available with area trucking companies and manufacturers,” Browder said.
The American Trucking Associations forecasts that the trucking industry will need to hire 1.2 million drivers over the next decade to keep pace with economic growth and driver retirements.
“This is a good career that you can retire from. What other program can you complete in just eight to 10 weeks and then earn from $40,000 to $50,000 a year starting out?” Browder said. “Experienced drivers whose routes cover the Southeast or are Over The Road drivers can earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.”
“The retirement of the current bedside nursing workforce began before the pandemic; however, issues related to the pandemic accelerated the exodus of Nurses from the workforce,” said Michelle Spears-Sevy, program director and instructor for GNTC’s Associate of Science in Nursing program. The increasing age of the population with complex health issues is also a factor.
“According to the Bureau of Health Workforce, Georgia ranks sixth in the nationwide Nursing shortage,” Spears-Sevy said. Officials say the shortage is hitting rural areas the hardest.
Nurses are needed in assisted living facilities, behavioral health facilities, doctors’ offices, home health providers, hospices, hospitals, schools and skilled nursing facilities, as well as in private duty nursing and travel nursing, she said.
Salary.com advises salaries for new graduates range between $31,260 to $37,571 for Certified Nursing Assistants, from $45,910 to $56,170 for Licensed Practical Nurses and from $59,612 to $75,967 for Registered Nurses, Spears-Sevy said.
“This is one of the few professions where you know that you will impact someone’s life every time you go to work,” she said.
The Technical College System of Georgia has identified dozens of high demand careers for Georgia. Of those, Georgia Northwestern Technical College offers programs in Automation Engineering Technology, including Engineering Technology Basics; Aviation Maintenance Technology; Basic POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training Council) Certification; Cybersecurity; Commercial Truck Driving; Manufacturing, including Industrial Systems Technology, Instrumentation and Controls, Precision Machining and Manufacturing, and Welding and Joining Technology; and Nursing and Practical Nursing, including programs to prepare for licensure as a Certified Nursing Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse and Registered Nurse.
To meet the needs for these and other high demand careers, GNTC is expanding course offerings by adding more sections and evening courses at some campuses, utilizing career fairs and open houses to expose secondary-school students to these career fields and working with industry partners to share information about apprenticeship programs and available funding, Dr. Popham said.
“Programs at GNTC maintain contact with the private industry through advisory committees, which review course curricula, program equipment and facilities, and make recommendations to keep the programs up-to-date and in-line with industry standards,” Dr. Popham said. The committees also explain current business and industrial needs pertaining to job skills and job placement.
“We utilize program advisory committees to ensure we have the appropriate equipment and are teaching the competencies and skills necessary to succeed in today’s workforce,” she said.
GNTC students who wish to pursue one of Georgia’s high-demand careers may be eligible for a grant to pay 100% of tuition costs for select in-demand diploma and technical certificate programs. To be eligible for the HOPE Career Grant, students must first qualify for and be receiving the HOPE Grant. The two grants together will cover tuition.
Students must meet HOPE Career Grant eligibility requirements and pay the remaining costs of college fees, books and materials each semester. For more information on the HOPE Career Grant, contact GNTC Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., at 866-983-4682.