Higher Ed Keeps Pace with Atlanta Job Market
The good news is metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate was down to 8 percent in August 2013 from a peak of 10.5 percent in 2009. But with some job sectors making more of a comeback than others, as well as the effects of rapidly changing technology, many people are going back to school to learn a new vocation. Just as employees struggle to stay current and competitive, so do colleges and universities. Below are examples of innovative courses that some Atlanta area schools have developed in response to changes in today’s job market.
Kennesaw State University, College of Continuing and Professional Education
“We have the largest population of older adults coming through in the history of this country,” says Barbara Calhoun, the dean of the College of Continuing and Professional Education at Kennesaw State University. “Anything in the medical field is going to be big because of that bubble of population of older adults coming through.”
Calhoun did an informal poll of local pharmacies to assess the need for certified pharmacy technicians and received an overwhelmingly positive response to a proposed certificate program. The pharmacy technician certificate program now has at least 30 students each time it’s offered.
In response to another need in the local medical community, KSU is in the process of developing a medical assisting certificate program. A recent change now requires medical assistants to be certified, which means some current medical assistants will need to return to school to earn their certification. Medical assistants perform both administrative and clinical tasks in physicians’ offices and represent one of the fastest growing job fields.
Atlanta Technical College
In 2008, Georgia passed the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act to provide tax credits of up to 30 percent to companies that produce film, television or video games in Georgia. This incentive has worked so well that there is now a demand for employees trained in these specialized fields. Atlanta Tech responded by creating an associate’s degree in design and media production technology that includes components of graphic design, computer animation, Web interface design and motion graphics. They are also developing a new curriculum for film and video production. “Part of this is in response to the Hollywood films and television shows that are being shot here, but there is also a growing need in the corporate world for video production. Because of things like YouTube and Internet advertising, there’s a bigger than ever need for video,” says Britt Pitre, department chair of the Design and Media Technology Program at Atlanta Technical College. “All of our classes are full. I would say in the past year, our program has increased by about 30 percent.”
Atlanta Tech will be launching a Six Sigma quality assurance professional certificate in the fall of 2013. Unlike most schools teaching Six Sigma, Atlanta Tech will offer this as a credit program. “By doing it as a credit program, the person has to be admitted to the school which means they can apply for financial aid and the HOPE grant,” says Warren Pincombe, economic development specialist at Atlanta Tech.
Chattahoochee Technical College
Since it shares the name of Atlanta’s major river, it seems appropriate for Chattahoochee Tech to add an associate’s degree that includes wetlands management and watershed analysis. “We’ve added a brand new program that started this past fall, environmental technology, which is the first of its kind in metro Atlanta at the two-year level. It trains people to work in the water system and how to protect water,” says Rebecca Long, public relations specialist at Chattahoochee Technical College. The environmental technology associate of applied science degree covers the emerging field of environmental technology and how it relates to expanding environmental regulations and ecology. Students are prepared for jobs in resource recovery, water utilities, on-site wastewater treatment and sustainable development.
Chattahoochee Tech is also responding to the changes in the job market by offering bridge programs in nursing and emergency medicine. “The demand for practical nurses just isn’t as high as for registered nurses,” Long says. “We’ve created a new program that will take a practical nurse and train that person to be a registered nurse in 16 months. We’re doing the same for EMTs into paramedics.”
Clayton State University
The Georgia Archives and the National Archives near Clayton State’s campus in Morrow partnered with Clayton State to develop the master of archival studies program, one of the few in North America that focuses exclusively on archival studies. The digital age has had a profound effect on this profession. “The fact is that the very substance of our work has changed over the last 30 years because we used to deal with paper and film in traditional analog format,” says Richard Pearce-Moses, director of the master of archival studies program. “But today, the vast majority of records are created electronically and that means the nature of the records themselves has changed,”
Unlike paper, which can last for centuries if properly stored and preserved, digital media can decay within a few years. There’s also the issue of constantly upgrading media and software programs to contend with. The files have to be converted to current software every five or 10 years. “So archivists need to have a lot of technical skills that they didn’t need to have before,” Pearce-Moses says. “It’s a period of evolution and revolution in the industry.”
Central Michigan University, Global Campus
In a competitive job market, enhancing your resume with a graduate certificate demonstrates your dedication to your career and a willingness to invest in your future. Central Michigan University has 60 campus centers across the country, including two in the metro Atlanta. These campuses offer graduate certificates in general administration, health services administration, human resources administration, leadership and public administration. Master’s programs include adult education, sports administration and public management. With so many programs to choose from, and class schedules that can accommodate the lives of working adults, Central Michigan can help students get ahead in today’s market.
Chiropractors, like many other healthcare professionals, are likely to open their own practice after graduation. While they may be trained in anatomy, physiology and chemistry, there are other skills needed to help their businesses thrive. When Guy Riekeman, D.C., became the president of Life University in 2004, one of his goals was to ensure Life University’s graduates also had the business knowledge they needed to be successful. “Of all the chiropractic colleges, we offer the most comprehensive business courses,” says Craig Dekshenieks with Life University’s communications. “The business portion of our chiropractic curriculum is ever-changing to keep up with trends. So, those classes might have started out as basic business accounting, but now include things like how to market through social media.”
Emory Continuing Education
Like other schools, Emory Continuing Education gets ideas for new programs by watching the trends in the workforce, but they also take into account Emory’s areas of expertise. The certificate in predictive health was developed in conjunction with the Emory-Georgia Tech Predictive Health Institute (predictivehealth.emory.edu). This research-based institute is developing an innovative model of health care that focuses on preventing disease. “We saw that Emory has this wonderful resource and a lot of expertise in that area, so we built a program based on that,” says Lisa Kozicki, director of programs at Emory Continuing Education. “We’ve run our third iteration of it, each one has been bigger than the last and we have a group of students waiting for the next one to start.”
The certificate in sustainability program was developed in a similar way. Sustainability is gaining ground in the public consciousness, and Emory has embraced it with a very successful model on campus. Emory Continuing Education decided to offer the subject as a certificate program. “There are sustainability programs out there on the credit side but not very many practical application programs for people who already have a master’s degree and don’t want to get another one,” Kozicki says.