OAKWOOD – Officials with some of Hall County’s premier manufacturing businesses joined the Hall County Board of Education Monday evening for a tour of the recently completed addition at West Hall High School.
Scott Reed, Manufacturing Technology Instructor at West Hall, excitedly introduced himself to the group as they entered his “classroom”, a roughly 4,000-square foot, two-story addition at the rear of the school building that looked like the floor of a modern manufacturing business.
“We are super excited about what is going to be happening at this school,” Reed told the visitors as they glanced around the spacious new digs of Hall County School’s first certified manufacturing laboratory.
“Everybody knows in manufacturing,” Reed said to the manufacturing executives, “how desperate things are starting to get.” Reed was referring to the need for qualified individuals to work in the growing number of manufacturing businesses currently in, and soon to be in, Hall County and the rest of Georgia.
“4.5-million jobs short by 2025,” Reed said of statewide manufacturing employment projections. “Faster than (the employment needs for) health care and transportation; we know that you need them,” he added.
A collective nod-of-agreement by those listening to Reed underscored his point.
Several of those executives had mentioned in the past to West Hall High School Principal Dr. Ley Hathcock the need for a manufacturing program somewhere in the school district.
“We could have started a metals program or an auto shop program or any of those…but we have been talking for a few years about how we really need something to introduce these kids to what the plant across the street looks like…and what it does,” Hathcock said. “This is culmination of a lot of that dialogue.”
Then Hathcock challenged those executives to tell him what skills they would like students in the new program to acquire. “This is the prime time for you to tell us…as a local industry… where you would like us to focus.”
“If you’re familiar with the Georgia CTAE (Career, Technical and Agricultural Education) standards, they are broad enough that we’ve got a lot of flexibility in how we direct these kids and what specific things we teach them within the context of each class,” Hathcock said.
“I’m hoping…that you will tell me what you want these kids to know so that when they leave here you’re ready to take them onboard,” he added.
Reed explained that instruction in the Manufacturing Pathway, the latest of sixteen Career Clusters offered by the district, would include such topics as: manufacturing fundamentals; material science; operating the latest technology; planning production of a product from initial idea conception to the marketplace; prototyping; as well as the personal work skills necessary for successfully keeping a job.
Reed says he runs his classroom just like a modern manufacturing facility runs its plant. “I run my (classroom) just like a job shop.” He pointed at the classroom door and said, “This is an employee entrance.”
Routers, lathes, 3-D printers, plasma cutters, mills, robotics, injection molding equipment and an array of other conventional and cutting-edge equipment will be used during instructional time.
Most importantly, Reed says, “The kids are really excited; they’re really jumping on board. They are all into it and ready to go.”
Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield said that while the Manufacturing Pathway class was only offered at the West Hall High School campus, all district students are eligible to participate. “If there is space you can go. All (you) have to do is let your current principal know or send an email to Dr. Hathcock and (you) can find out all about the program.”