Speaking at our General Membership Luncheon the other month, Georgia Gwinnett College President Dan Kaufman told the audience that the college has the opportunity to be the prototype for higher education in the U.S.
And the role that Georgia Gwinnett College will play in our community comes at a critical time.
To compete in today's global economy and to attract the type of quality, high-wage jobs the chamber's economic development team is seeking, it is critical that more and more of Gwinnett's workers hold at least a two- or four-year degree.
The community's Partnership Gwinnett strategy stresses that increasing the number and capacity of post-high-school degree opportunities in Gwinnett will enhance our work force's employability.
It will also broaden Gwinnett's appeal to target-sector companies in the areas of information technology, advanced communication, health care, distribution and trade and regional headquarters for professional services firms - industries that often employ workers with average salaries of $60,000 or more.
But these enhanced higher-educational opportunities must be complemented by a responsive training community with diverse and scalable programs. Businesses - particularly those in highly specialized sectors - need access to continuous and innovative training opportunities to maintain their competitive edge in today's global economy.
These efforts will best serve both the work force and the business community if they are pursued with a demand-driven approach. New degree and training opportunities should focus on occupations within target business sectors while program curricula should leverage direct feedback from local employers.
And that's exactly what's happening at Georgia Gwinnett College.
The college provides access to targeted baccalaureate level degrees that meet the economic development needs of the growing and diverse population of Gwinnett and the northeast Atlanta metropolitan region.
They offer three degree programs: biology, business and psychology. This fall, they will begin offering a degree program in information technology and plan to add programs in education and nursing in the next few years. All of these degrees are driven by the demands of our existing businesses and community. This will only strengthen our work force in the clusters in the years to come.
They also emphasize the innovative use of technology and active-learning environments to provide students enhanced learning experiences, practical opportunities to apply knowledge, increased scheduling flexibility and a variety of course-delivery options. Again, their focus on innovation and technology make them unique to any other post-secondary school of its kind in Georgia, if not the Southeast.
Georgia Gwinnett College - a prototype for higher education in the U.S. The timing couldn't better, and the future couldn't be brighter as we create the much-needed knowledge workers for tomorrow right here in our own backyard.
Jim Maran is president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.