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Approximately two months ago, Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard was enjoying lunch at a local Mexican restaurant when Tommy Hopkins, an owner of Storm Services, LLC, approached him about the possibility of Cairo High School offering utility linemen training to interested students.
From that brief conversation followed two, in-depth meetings with representatives of Storm Services, Grady EMC, Southern Regional Technical Services, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Georgia EMC and Pike Electric.
The group met last Wednesday, Nov. 20, and decided to move forward on the creation of the College of Lineworker Instruction, Mentorship & Basics (CLIMB) through the Cairo High School College and Career Academy in partnership with Southern Regional Technical College.
“This is a public and private joint venture at its best. Grady EMC and Storm Services came to us with a need for line workers and we invited Southern Regional to join with us to provide the necessary curriculum to meet the needs of our students. Students who complete this program will be ‘ready to learn’ from any company that employs line workers, not just Grady EMC or Storm Services. Partnering with Southern Regional allows us to add the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program to the coursework, providing our students with another certification they can add to their resume upon graduation,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Southern Regional will prepare the curriculum and have it approved by its board in December. It will then be presented to the board of the Technical College System of Georgia in January.
Students at Cairo High School will be able to enroll in the CLIMB program beginning in the fall semester of 2020, pending approval and accreditation of the program by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools prior to next July 1.
“Grady EMC has new energy and is working to advance the communities we serve. We are a community-focused organization, providing jobs and investing in the community through many different programs. This program will open multiple doors for students, locally and abroad,” said Grady EMC spokesman Adam Starr.
Superintendent Gilliard concurred and said with not only the line worker training but also by obtaining a CDL, students who do not plan to attend college or serve in the armed forces will graduate with marketable skills.
Starr noted that a CDL is a requirement for line workers and he said graduates of CLIMB would be “very attractive to Grady EMC, Pike Electric, Georgia Power and others.”
“The aim of this program is to provide a foundation for electrical line workers. Graduates of this program will be ‘ready to learn’ upon hire, alleviating some initial training and the expense that goes with it, just to become familiar with the nature of the work,” said Grady EMC President Joe Pandy.
Storm Services, LLC, which is an emergency management company that employs line workers, and utilities such as Grady EMC constantly struggle to find adequate numbers of line workers.
According to Dr. Gilliard, Storm Services owner Tommy Hopkins is committed to investing in the program.
The Grady County school superintendent said that classes will likely be offered on the Cairo campus of Southern Regional, which is across U.S. 84 from Grady EMC’s headquarters.
Students who complete the CLIMB program will earn 12 credit hours and a CDL.
“I see this as an opportunity to help develop a future work force for a specific need not only in our community, but across the nation. We are always looking for opportunities to benefit our community and I’m excited that we can achieve that by working with our partners at Southern Regional to meet these needs,” College and Career Academy CEO Todd Gainous said.
Cairo High School Principal Chris Lokey said, “One of our goals as a College and Career Academy is to foster relationships with community and to focus on local workforce development. In our original strategic planning process, we sought to foster a collaborative effort in which education and local business would be brought together. We want to make sure that educational opportunities and training, such as these, are put in front of our students.”
Lokey went on to say, “I cannot say enough about the way Grady EMC, Storm Services, and Southern Regional Technical College have paved the way and opened doors to make this program a reality for the students of Grady County. I am excited about the future of this program and what it means for our community and the students of Cairo High School.”
“We see this venture as a win-win-win. Our students will be employable upon graduation and classes and training will not cost them anything. Local utilities will have employees who know what is required for the job and our community will benefit from quicker restoration of power by having an adequate supply of trained, skilled employees,” Dr. Gilliard said.
He added, “I thank Tommy (Hopkins) and Joe (Pandy) for their willingness to partner with Southern Regional and the Grady County School System.”
This news comes on the heels of recent announcements of an internship program with Koyo Bearings as well as other work based learning opportunities available to C.H.S. students.
An initial meeting to discuss the partnership was held on Oct. 29 and the follow up meeting was held last week.