The Union Recorder

June 4, 2013

GED training helps CSH and city employees

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The City of Milledgeville and Central State Hospital recently made an adult literacy commitment. Employee work release GED programming through Central Georgia Technical College offers a brighter future.

Nine individuals from City Public Works and Water and Sewer departments travel to the CGTC campus twice a week for the last three hours of their duty day. At Central State, 67 employees are currently enrolled in various GED class stages on the hospital campus site.

City and CSH employees lose no pay going to classes each week.

The training costs the employers nothing as part of the technical college’s adult literacy mission. Hank Griffeth, vice president of satellite operations at CGTC, said the college kicks in different funding sources adding to federal and state monies.

The only cost is the GED test itself, which the city and Communities in Schools of Milledgeville-Baldwin County (CISMBC) will help pay for.

CISMBC board members, Georgia Military College President Maj. Gen. Peter J. Boylan (Ret.), Sandy Baxter and Lyn Chandler, pushed the Central State GED piece, helping soon-to-be displaced employees.

Griffeth said CGTC was fortunate to have City Manager Barry Jarrett and CSH make this happen.

“I think it speaks volumes for the city and for administrative staff at Central State Hospital to be concerned about the literacy level of the folks working in those two entities. To give them time to do those classes as professional development during the course of their workday, I think shows a great commitment to help their staff get what they need to not only become better employees where they are, but in the case of Central State Hospital especially giving those folks additional help in finding employment again when the current jobs are phased out,” Griffeth said.

City Public Works Director Frank Baugh said the tech college’s services offer a great employee benefit for dedicated workers lacking high school or equivalent GEDs. Jarrett supports the GED services at CGTC for other departments as well, according to Baugh.

Baugh said the GED work doesn’t cost the city much besides extending duty time to accommodate class. The department training budget will pay for the testing.

“I think the extent we are investing will pay for itself. We have some good employees who are in the program who would otherwise be good candidates for progression within the ranks to supervisor levels. That option is kind of closed right now until they get the GED diploma,” Baugh said.

Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Mike Couch sees the hospital, CGTC, city and CISMBC coming together to make a more marketable workforce.

Considering the upcoming shuttering of the Craig Center, the adult literacy talk comes at the perfect time. Couch announced Sunrise Medical Group from Miami, Fla., a private skilled nursing provider, is interested in doing what the Craig Center does.

Officials with the company understand the patient load and are exploring a Milledgeville option, according to Couch.

One employee requirement is a high school diploma or GED, which lines up perfectly with the discussed work release educational options. The CSH authority director said this offers tangible workforce improvement evidence.

“Without a high school or a GED diploma, they have no opportunity to work anywhere,” Couch said. “To me, it’s us doing the best we can to qualify a workforce for future opportunities whether it be a privatized caregiver model or some other job.”

Boylan said the GED work sets Milledgeville up well for a shot at keeping clients and jobs here.

“The probability the group home initiative will remain in Milledgeville goes up astronomically,” Boylan said. “Otherwise, we stand to again increase our unemployment.”

GED students may also gain college credit hours.

Those participants meeting a certain level on college placement tests independent of the GED assessment qualify for CGTC’s Accelerated Opportunities Program (AOP). The accelerated portion lets individuals earn college credit while obtaining the GED diploma.

The college accepts whatever HOPE scholarship money is available for AOP students and waves other fees. Griffeth said CGTC President Dr. Ivan Allen made that pledge.

“That shows the commitment of our president specifically and the college as a whole to help folks in the community we serve get as much education as possible,” he said. 

Old school employees vetting without a high school diploma or GED are firmly in the rear view. Most participants have held city or CSH positions for decades without that educational piece.

“When they were hired, it wasn’t unusual for someone to not have a high school or GED diploma,” the CGTC vice president said. “It’s few and far between where you will find employers who are willing to do what the city and Central State are doing for these folks to move up the occupational ladder.”

Griffeth fully expects the CSH numbers to increase as employees notice the positive benefits. 

CGTC instructors tailor class material depending on the initial assessment level. GED program students ascend to passing all portions of the final test.

“We want to give them as much confidence as possible and be relatively sure they are going to pass that part of the GED testing when they take it so it doesn’t cost additional money if they don’t,” Griffeth said.

Baugh said the GED programming is an all-around positive investment for the city.

Couch wants this to become a pilot program, showing onlookers Milledgeville’s support expands beyond traditional higher education. The community education engine driven by the CISMBC project is imperative for Central State Hospital redevelopment and community future.

Having a trainable workforce can only assist economic development.

“For us to say we have that number of people at that level of training that can now go to work for you would be huge,” Griffeth said.

Boylan notices the dire straights of county education backed by recent local high school graduation rate decline. GED programming has big implications, according to the longtime GMC leader.

“Baldwin County is going in the wrong direction. Right now, the GED program is the only way we have to put ourselves on the map and make ourselves attractive to business and industry,” Boylan said. “This is the direction that we are going. I think frankly it’s the only hope for Baldwin County. We either turn this around, or we are dead in the water.”

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