Students working at Lanier Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Lab in Gainesville, Georgia. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance.

GAINESVILLE, Ga.—According to the Manufacturing Institute, the U.S. is in the early stages of a period of dramatic population aging, and the manufacturing sector appears to be disproportionately experiencing the ramifications. In 2012, the median age in manufacturing was 44.7 years, versus 42.3 years for the total workforce.

The U.S. factory sector clearly needs an influx of young talent. In addition to focusing on educational needs, the nation must convince its university graduates and younger workers that there are rewards in a manufacturing career.

Attracting and retaining qualified employees are huge concerns for Georgia’s manufacturers. The Georgia Manufacturing Alliance (GMA) addressed these concerns at a Workforce Development Showcase panel discussion and tour at Lanier Technical College in February.

Tim McDonald, Lanier Tech’s executive vice president of economic development, shared this piece of advice with parents.

“You can send your child to a technical college,” McDonald said. “With financial aid, it is potentially free. They’ll graduate with little or no debt in two years and a near 100 percent job placement rate in a career that will pay them enough to move out of your basement.”

With a capacity crowd of more than 60 manufacturing professionals, the panel shared what is working in the Hall County area for apprenticeships, workforce-based learning programs, and the resources that are available. Each speaker shared a different perspective regarding workforce challenges and the specific programs that have been developed with the manufacturers’ concerns in mind.

Chase Sweda, a welding and joining student at Lanier Technical College, receives instruction at Lanier Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Lab. Sweda was named Lanier Tech’s winner of the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL). Photo courtesy of the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance.

Panel participants included Shelly Davis, vice president of existing industry for the Hall County Chamber; Mike McGraw, managing member of Ranger Manufacturing; Tim McDonald, executive vice president of economic development for Lanier Tech; Sherree Moss, human resource manager of ZF Industries; and Greg Vitek, workforce development at Lanier Tech, in Gainesville, Georgia.

The moderator of the event, Mike McGraw, shared his views as a strategic partner of Pride Staff, managing member of Ranger Manufacturing, and as the NE Chapter Director for the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance.

“With the pulse on a variety of industries, we realize that we cannot sit back and think that we are going to find the people,” said McGraw. “We must take an active role to recruit, groom, and build the market of qualified employees. We look forward to collaborating on a future event with GMA to further highlight Lanier Tech and Northeast Georgia as leading the way for workforce needs in our community.”

The panel discussion was followed by a tour of Lanier Tech’s Kubota Advanced Manufacturing Building, part of a 335,000-square-foot technical college campus. Attendees toured the Kubota Advanced Manufacturing Campus, which features eight labs where students can study a variety of fields, including air conditioning (HVAC), automotive collision repair, CNC machine tooling, diesel technology, and industrial systems. Fields of study also include marine technology, motor sports vehicle technology, and welding and joining.

During the tour, attendees also met Chase Sweda, a welding and joining student at Lanier Technical College. He was named Lanier Tech’s winner of the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL). GOAL, a statewide program of the Technical College System of Georgia, honors excellence in academics and leadership among the state’s technical college students.

The next Workforce Development Showcase for GMA will be a tour of GA QuickStart on April 25, 2019, in Atlanta. Georgia Quick Start is a highly ranked training program that is available at no cost to qualified companies, has been in existence since 1967 and has trained more than 1,200,000 employees.

Attendees will gain an understanding of how Quick Start can assist new, expanding, and existing industries to train their employees. This overview will be followed by a behind-the- scenes tour of Quick Start’s on-site labs, showing the methodologies used in training, such as advanced manufacturing and e-learning.

The Georgia Manufacturing Alliance ( is a membership-based industry organization founded in 2008 to support Georgia’s manufacturing community. The Alliance provides monthly plant tours, educational sessions, tradeshows, and unique networking opportunities designed to help make profitable business connections for its members. Additional resources provided by GMA include the Georgia Manufacturing Directory, Georgia Manufacturing Summit, Georgia Manufacturing Calendar, and Buy From Georgia website.

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