A grant that enables certain students at Ogeechee Technical College and other technical education students in Georgia to receive free tuition now has a name that more accurately reflects the grant's goals.
The HOPE Career Grant, formerly known as the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant, is available to qualified students who enroll in select majors specifically aligned with one of 12 industries in which there are more jobs available in Georgia than there are skilled workers to fill them. These industries were identified by Gov. Nathan Deal's "High-Demand Career Initiative" and the General Assembly as strategically important to the state's economic growth.
"We continuously seek ways to help our Georgia students attain a high-quality, affordable education that leads to a productive career," Gov. Deal said. "This grant is an important piece in our tool kit of educational assets, and helps students prepare to enter those industries in the state that have the greatest workforce needs."
The grant, which was implemented in 2013 for three key industries, now benefits qualified students who enroll in the following 12 program areas: certified engineer assistant, commercial truck driving, computer programming, computer technology, diesel equipment technology, early childhood care and education, health science, industrial maintenance, movie production/set design, practical nursing, precision manufacturing, and welding and joining technology.
Ogeechee Tech offers most of the HOPE Career Grant programs, with the exception of computer programming, movie production, and precision manufacturing, according to Lori Durden, president of OTC.
"As the state tries to facilitate filling open positions in critical industries, the extra measure of assistance through the HOPE Career Grant can make a huge difference in assisting students," Durden said. "We hope there are a lot of people out there who will take advantage of this opportunity."
While some of the HOPE Career Grant programs offered at OTC have been around for quite a while, such as Early Childhood Care and Education and practical nursing, others, such as Industrial Maintenance and diesel equipment technology, are more recent additions in answer to needs within the business community, Durden said.
While the HOPE Career Grant opportunities are open for any qualified student pursuing a certificate or diploma at a public college in Georgia, students within the Technical College System of Georgia have been the main beneficiaries. The number of certificates or diplomas in these 12 areas awarded to technical college students in the 2016 academic year was 16,514, up from 11,289 in 2013.
"The opportunity to have a grant that paid my tuition meant the world to me," said Skylar Huggett, a 2017 welding graduate from Savannah Technical College and the TCSG Technical Education "GOAL" Student of the Year. "The Pell Grant, Zell Miller Grant, HOPE Career grant and my part-time job collectively made it possible for me to enter the welding career I'm passionate about."