The March 2 Progress Edition contained an article with the phrase “Gone are the days of vocational school, where offerings were little more than automotive repair and welding.” I could not disagree more with the notion that an exclusive focus on one trade is a negative. In contrast it has been our sole focus on Structural Plate and Pipe Welding that has established Georgia Trade School into one of the industry’s most respected nationwide, in the process featuring our students on the cover of national magazines.
Our signature employment partner, Huntington Ingalls Industries, which recently posted fourth quarter revenues of nearly two billion, comes to Kennesaw to recruit second- and third-class shipbuilders. Ingalls has lauded GTS for the quality of students Cobb County High Schools produce and their well-balanced understanding of the fundamentals of welding. This cannot be accomplished in a classroom setting but instead must be done by working hands-on as we do over 83 percent of the time in our program.
These former Harrison, Kennesaw Mountain, North Cobb and Walton students are playing a fundamental role in protecting our national security, especially as the United States pivots to Asia, where naval superiority will be crucial.
My staff and I could not be more proud of what these tradesmen do every day, working in the elements with mountains of steel and acres of pipes to build and maintain our Navy.
Closer to home, Caterpillar — which has invested 200 million in their Athens site to build tractors and excavators — will employ 1,400 people by 2017. We are proud to be sending our graduates to this Peoria-based global giant. Insourcing of jobs may well become a significant factor in improving our economy and returning high-tech manufacturing to the United States. This can only happen if we have the workforce capable of meeting the demands an increasingly competitive labor market values.
The Army Corps of Engineers also travels to Kennesaw for training to take their craft workers to a higher level of excellence. The upcoming Braves stadium project will require plenty of welding as recently constructed major league baseball stadiums incorporate over 200,000 tons of steel and concrete — enough to build a skyscraper.
We are also very proud in an era when you hear horror stories of the rising costs in higher education and for profits that are more interested in stock performance than people that all of the success our school enjoys has come without a single dollar of government funding.
In closing, the words of Mike Petters, Huntington Ingalls CEO, who recently said we cannot only be a nation of ideas and services, we cannot depend on others to make the critical tools and machines we need to grow our economy and maintain our security.
Are vocational schools a relic whose days have gone by? I sincerely doubt it!
Georgia Trade School
Mr. Blythe is a member of the Go Build Georgia Advisory Council, the Gulf States Shipbuilders Consortium and sits on the board of the Kennesaw Business Association.