Category Archives: Education

Civic elders ask millennials to engage with community; How will they respond?

This may be a breakout year for millennials in metro Atlanta because the region’s current leaders are actively encouraging young folks to step into the public realm. One question is the form the relationship will take.

Midtown millennial

Metro Atlanta civic leaders are seeking to ways to engage millennials such as Sarah Ayres in the public arena. Ayres was in a Midtown cafe while Pony was served on the sidewalk. Credit: David Pendered

Bill Bolling didn’t mince any words in his comments to more than 100 young professionals assembled by the Atlanta Regional Commission to bring their fresh eye to eight challenges facing the region. Bolling now heads the Food Well Alliance after founding and running the Atlanta Community Food Bank for more than 35 years.

“We want you to lead the effort,” Bolling said. “To begin to map who your allies are. The ARC is one; Community Foundation is one; the Food Well Alliance. To start mapping progressive policy makers in government, business. At the end of the day it has to be a business proposition. You’re going to say that, because you’re going to say, ‘This is what we want; this is what we demand.’”

For some baby boomers, the millennials’ response to Bolling’s challenge may present a case of, “be careful what you wish for.” According to a White House report, all indications are that millennials have the education and social skills to win their case when they engage in an issue:

However, the millennials face a challenge may impede their ability to engage in politics or community-building events: college debt. Finding time for such activities might not be possible for a millennial facing a monthly payment on a student loan.

The average real per borrower debt increased from $24,000 in 2004 to $30,000 in 2012, according to the White House report. Total student outstanding loan debt exceeded $1 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2014.

To get greater numbers of this generation into the fold, the Gwinnett Chamber has revamped its youth outreach program. The chamber has partnered with Georgia Gwinnett College to ramp up Gwinnett Young Professionals, a mentoring program.

“Our mission is to attract millennials to the chamber when they first enter the workforce and engage and empower them through community, professional and social opportunities,” Sean George, manager of membership services at the Gwinnett Chamber and program manager of Gwinnett Young Professionals, said in a statement.

Millennials by race, ethnicity

Metro Atlanta mirrors the national trend of millennials being the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of youth in the nation’s history, with no majority ethnic group in 2010, according to an ARC survey. Credit: ARC

This strategy, of focusing an outreach program on millennials, is one of the recommendations of a report commissioned by the ARC. The Millennial Report is part of the ARC’s New Voices program, which aims to promote meaningful conversation among millennials on topics related to the future of metro Atlanta.

ARC sponsored the event where Bolling made his comments to nearly 100 millennials. The Millennial Meeting was the forum at which eight working groups of millennials turned their attention to regional problems – transit; access to healthy food; affordable and livable centers; mentorships at every stage of life; education; uniting the region; and promoting regional cooperation.

ARC Chairman Kerry Armstrong told the young professionals that current leaders are looking to them for ideas, and ways to implement them.

“I want to reiterate the high expectations we have of this group,” Armstrong said at the start of the meeting. “What we hear tonight is extremely important to all of us.”

At the end of the meeting Armstrong echoed Bolling’s sentiment: “How do we keep the momentum up? All you groups are going tell us, and we’re going to listen.”


Georgia women paid an average of 82 cents for every $1 paid to men, report shows

Women in Georgia are paid an average of 82 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to a report released Friday.

Rosie the Riveter, Mary Doyle Keefe

Norman Rockwell’s famous painting of Rosie the Riveter, inspired by Mary Doyle Keefe, was viewed as an inspiration to women. Credit:

The National Partnership for Women and Families conducted a nationwide study that determined the national average is that women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. The figures represent workers in fulltime jobs.

“This study confirms that a punishing wage gap persists for women in every corner of the country and the costs for women, their families and our national and state economies are significant,” Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said in a statement.

In Georgia, the annual gap in wages results in women being paid $8,155 less than men. The NPWF used data from the American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2014, to reach its conclusions, according to the report.

Georgia ranks 37th in the nation in terms of the wage gap, according to the report. The difference in wages paid in Georgia is 18 cents.

Wage gap

This chart shows the wage gap reported Friday by the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Louisiana is ranked No. 1, with a wage gap of 35 cents, followed by Utah (33 cents), Wyoming (31 cents), West Virginia (30 cents), and North Dakota (29 cents).

The areas with the least disparities are Washington, D.C. (10 cents), New York (13 cents), Hawaii (14 cents), and four states with a disparity of 15 cents – Maryland, Nevada, Florida, and North Carolina. California, Arizona, and Vermont share the fifth place in terms of lowest disparity, at 16 cents.

The NPWF is lobbying Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Sen. Barbara Milkulski (D-Md.) introduced the legislation in 2013. Milkulski, 78, announced in March that she will not seek reelection to the Senate, where she has served since 1987. Milkulski previous served a decade in the U.S. House.

The legislation would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in order to, “revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages,” according to a summary of the bill on

The legislation would revise, “the exception to the prohibition for a wage rate differential based on any other factor other than sex. Limits such factors to bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience,” according to the summary.

“Closing the wage gap would help keep women and families from losing much-needed income while benefitting our communities and country,” Ness said. “It is past time for federal lawmakers to take real action to promote equality and economic security for America’s women and families by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is a reasonable and common sense proposal that has languished in Congress for too long.”

Here are some snapshots from the report on Georgia:

Millennials offer a smorgasbord of solutions to the region’s big challenges

Editor’s note: Visit our page Sept. 22 to read more on this subject and the broader issue of millennials in metro Atlanta.

The Atlanta Regional Commission recruited some of the sharpest millennial minds in metro Atlanta to come up with their best solutions to the region’s thorniest problems. The overarching response is that no challenge is too great if folks are willing to try new things and work together.

Doug Hooker

ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker recorded the slides and videos presented during the Millennial Mixer. Credit: David Pendered

A proposed Pledge to Win the Future is the clearest example of how one group of millennials think the region should approach its challenges. Presenter Michael Leithead said Denver created its Mile High Compact 15 years, and the compact helped create a shared vision for the region.

Eight working groups of millennials presented their solutions in a format similar to those on the TV show, Shark Tank. The Millennial Mixer, on Monday evening, culminated a project that ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker has pursued for almost three years. The teams have been working most of this year.

After the mixer, Hooker said he viewed the eight teams as a convergence of focus group, think tank, and implementation team.

“They are a focus group in that we started with the idea of putting them in a lot of settings they are comfortable in and asking, ‘what do you want to see in this region and what will keep you committed.’ We got lots of ideas and these eight subjects rose to the top. So that’s a focus group.

“The think tank aspect is, ‘How do you put these ideas into action; how does the region implement them,’” Hooker said. “As far as implementation team, you saw their energy, their excitement. They are laser focused on implementing these ideas.”

At this point, Nick Juliano, a presenter, walked up and offered to be a contact for future stories about his group’s effort. Juliano said he wanted to approach the Metro Atlanta Chamber to gauge its support and interest on advancing the group’s subject – creating a unified voice of support for transit in metro Atlanta, and a unified transit system to operate it.

Millennial Mixer

Putting live DJs to mix music on MARTA trains is one of the ideas that would incorporate transit into the lifestyles of riders, millennial presenter Blake Bredbenner said. Credit: David Pendered

Hooker offered to introduce Juliano to chamber chamber President/CEO Hala Moddelmog, who attended the mixer.

The solution Juliano and his teammates devised is to unify the support for transit that is emerging throughout the region. A number of polls have showed a rising level of support across the region for improving transit.

The group already has created a website to begin building support and gathering responses to a poll.

A related aspect is to unify the region’s five major transit systems in order to promote the development of a comprehensive transit system. The group cites MARTA, GRTA, Cobb Community Transit, Gwinnett County Transit, and Atlanta Streetcar.

According to a statement on the website: “Transit is top of mind for individuals across the region, but this has translated to limited action. If metro Atlanta is to remain competitive as a region, it will need to provide residents with a comprehensive and unified transit system capable of moving people conveniently and efficiently throughout the region.”

A second team that considered the transit issue considered the issue of healthy transit habits.

The upshot is to make MARTA an integral part of life in metro Atlanta. Ideas include an app that lists events occurring at locations near MARTA bus and rail stops; expanding the fresh market concept that MARTA has developed at the West End Station; staging pop up community gardens in underused parking lots; and having live DJs mix music inside MARTA trains.

MARTA would hire an art curator to coordinate the events, according to presenter Blake Bredbenner.


Three Georgia campuses among greenest in nation: Emory, Spelman, West Georgia

Three higher ed campuses in Georgia were ranked among the greenest schools in the nation, according to ninth annual rankings of colleges and universities released Tuesday by Sierra magazine.

Emory University, Candler Library

A 30 percent reduction in water consumption at Candler Library helped Emory University earn a 28th ranking on a green campus program sponsored by “Sierra” magazine. Credit:

The Georgia schools and their rankings on a scale of 1 to 1,000 are:

The whole point of the rankings is to inform students about the sustainability efforts conducted on various campuses, and to promote sustainability on campus. According to a Sierra FAQ page:

Participation is in the rankings program is voluntary and open to all four-year colleges and universities in the country.

Spelman College

Spelman College was ranked the nation’s 131st greenest campus in part because of curriculum offerings on sustainability. Credit:

Here are some highlights of the self-reported information from each of Georgia’s three ranked schools:

Emory on its green buildings:

Spelman on its education offerings:

West Georgia on its education offerings:

University of West Georgia

University of West Georgia was ranked the nation’s 141st greenest campus in part because of its nursing curriculum, which promotes environmentally sound practices. Credit:

This year, 153 schools entered and all 153 were ranked.

To participate, college administrators completed a STARS questionnaire. STARS is operated by AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education).

STARS stands for Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. It’s a trademarked, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance, according to the website.

Here’s how the rankings work:

A total of 1,000 points can be earned. About 70 categories are represented.

The scoring key for this year’s program starts out with small ball, seven-point questions. Schools can receive up to seven points for peer-to-peer sustainability program for all students. Schools can receive seven points for featuring sustainability topics during orientation.

Big points are availability for sustainable buildings and operating practices. For instance:


Care for a yak filet? Try KSU dining hall, part of school’s sustainable culinary program

Python and yak are on the student menu at Kennesaw State University. So are tomatoes from plants that grow 30 feet long in a KSU greenhouse. As well as lettuce grown hydroponically in the dining hall.
Kids still can choose a hamburger, and most do at the start of their college years. But they become more adventurous after seeing intriguing entrees on other students’ plates, said Gary Coltek, senior director of KSU’s culinary and hospitality services.
“We serve yak filet mignon, salt and pepper rattlesnake, wild boar, python,” Coltek said. “They need to learn about alternative proteins.”
Incoming freshman Matt Coutu said he liked his lunch, during orientation day last week. Even though the English major from Cumming wasn’t sure what it was.
“Guacamole, a dumpling, and a calzone,” he said of food that used to be on his plate. “The dumpling had some sort of meat. I’m guessing pork.”
Pork is was, from a pig cooked in a rotisserie right behind the serving line.
Rachel Johnson, Matt’s lunch mate, stuck with more recognizable fare. “Calzone and a salad, it was good,” said the business major from Cumming.
KSU has hit the national food radar with its sustainable dining program and two-year-old sustainable culinary degree program. As of April, the school is named for Mike Leven, president of Georgia Aquarium and former president of three hotel chains, who donated $5 million to KSU to promote leadership training for the hospitality industry.
The whole notion of “sustainable food initiatives” takes on a different meaning when it’s served up on plates and in glasses at KSU’s dining hall.
For starters, KSU has created a closed-loop food system. They call it farm to campus to farm. Food is grown on a KSU farm. It’s transported three miles to campus and converted to meals. The organic waste is hauled back to the farm, where it’s turned into compost used on the farm.
Robin Hunter has managed the farm for five years. She oversees 920 hydroponic tomato plants, each of which produces from 75 to 100 pounds of tomatoes. Cucumber plants produce fruit that’s ready to eat in two weeks. There’s corn, watermelon and berries, lots of berries – blueberry, raspberry, blackberry – and asparagus. A shitake mushroom garden grows in a shady forest.
Three goats romp in a corral. They’re more scenic than productive, given that they’re all males. They do give two farm dogs something to do, which is chase away coyotes who have jumped fences to get to the goats, Hunter said.
The farm hasn’t been easy to create. Soil was depleted by years of service as a concrete yard used by the Georgia Department of Transportation. After state Rep. Ed Setzler helped arrange for KSU to have access for use as an educational farm, about 3,000 dump truck loads of material were hauled in to lower the pH from 9.0 toward the desired level of 6.2, Hunter said.
Back at the dining hall, The Commons, students and guests eat in a facility said to be the largest LEED-Gold certified college dining hall in the country. Coltek said he ensured it was designed in such a way that cooks are able to prepare and serve small batches of food, some of which is cooked to order. A staff of about 150 serves more than 30,000 guests a week – averaging from 5,000 to 8,000 a day, Monday through Thursday.
Broccoli is an easy item to illustrate the difference between this kitchen and most commercial kitchens. Commercial kitchens typically cook large pots of broccoli and ladle it out as orders arrive. That’s why broccoli can seem, bland. In The Commons, broccoli is cooked to order and served immediately.
“We cook and serve our food right away,” said Melissa McMahon, assistant director of marketing and a part-time professor. “It limits waste. And we want it to be fresh – 70 percent of our food is made to order.”
McMahon points out the containers where hydroponic lettuce is grown. The units produce 700 heads of lettuce, every three weeks.
“We don’t have to go to Whole Foods to get lettuce grown in a natural method,” McMahon said. “You get healthier food this way, and it would cost a fortune if we had to go out and buy it.”
The Commons spans 54,000 square feet and is a collection of nine serving lines, each offering distinct meals with items that change daily. There’s a deli-inspired Highway 41, which offers burgers and fries. Apron Strings serves smoked beef brisket and potatoes. Campus Green specializes in salads. And Stone Mill Bakery provides a host of cookies and sweets.
Gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan items are available. A grist mill in the kitchen grinds grits and corn meals. Sauces and soups are homemade, without the use of bases or MSG. Wheat grass shots are produced by an extractor.
The nutritional and wellness components are shaped by the campus dietician and executive chef.
Incidentally, The Commons is open to the public. Coltek said the dining hall attracts a steady clientele from nearby businesses. Prices for all-you-can-eat meals, including tax, are $8 for breakfast; $10.50 for lunch; and $14.75 for dinner. Summer hours are in effect, and the hour and menus and posted on The Commons’ website.
Policemen have a reputation for knowing good places to eat. A group of cops who are at KSU for a training program said The Commons is a good place to eat.
Conyers police Capt. Jackie Dunn had a burger cooked to order, topped with an egg sunny-side up. Once Dunn slid the meat and egg out from the bread, and ate it with a fork, he had a picture-perfect paleo meal.
“It’s very good, it’s restaurant quality,” Dunn said. “There’s a senior police management class here for a four-week class, and we eat here every day. There’s lots and lots of variety, and it’s all been very good.”

College dorms to be run by private companies: Voters approved

Georgia’s embrace of public private partnerships now extends to college dormitories.

The Board of Regents has approved a deal to put nearly 10,000 students into beds that by 2016 will be managed by one private company. Georgia already has partnered with privately owned entities to manage matters including prisons, distance learning, and roadway construction.

The board approved in November a 65-year deal valued at $517 million with Corvias Group, based in East Greenwich, R.I. Terms are to be finalized next year. The University System of Georgia will retain oversight of the housing program.

One major benefit for the state is to be its release from some $300 million of debt. The existing housing bonds were sold by the state to finance student housing, and the state will no longer be responsible for it, according to a statement from the University System of Georgia.

Georgia voters authorized the privatization of student housing on the state’s campuses when they approved a referendum that was on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Passage of the referendum continues the tax-exempt status of student housing even if private companies operate the facilities. House Bill 788, which was approved this year, provided for the referendum. HB> 788 was sponsored by a bi-partisan coalition of ranking Republicans and Democrats that included:

Regents approved the deal with Corvias Campus Living on Nov. 12. The company now operates housing in conjunction with the military and an array of colleges and universities, according to its website.

The parent company incorporated two entities in Georgia on Nov. 20 – Corvias Group LLC, and Corvias Campus Living – USG, LLC.

Both companies list their home state as Delaware and neither provides the names of any corporate officers, according to papers the entities filed with the Georgia Secretary of State.

The regents began the privatization process on dormitories in April. The board released a request for proposals. In a statement released April 14, Chancellor Hank Huckaby said:

Huckaby maintained that theme in a statement released Nov. 12:

The deal calls for Corvias to take over 6,195 existing beds and to develop an additional 3,683 beds in time for fall semester, 2016.

The nine campuses that will be overseen by Corvias include:

Georgia’s jobs of future call for teamwork, technical skills: Employers

The No. 1 attribute that business leaders say will they want in their employees is the ability to collaborate, according to a report to Gov. Nathan Deal on high demand careers.

The report also states the top five careers of the future in Georgia are mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, welder, machinist, and computer numerical control operator, according to the report.

For these technical skills to provide their full value, employees must have “soft skills.” The report defines soft skills in terms that boil down to collaboration:

Younger employees tend to fall short in soft skills, according to the report.

Employers also have trouble finding potential workers who can pass background screenings and drug tests, according to the report on the Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative.

Deal released the report Dec. 10. It is the product of a series of listening sessions held around the state since Deal formed the initiative in January and called for it to be led by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, University System of Georgia, and the Technical College System of Georgia.

The report comes as a December report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says Georgia continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the nation. The BLS reported that 364,700 Georgians were unemployed in October. Georgia’s unemployment rate was dropping more slowly than most other states in the south, according to the report.

Some comments from businesses may explain why Georgia’s unemployed are finding it so difficult to get a job. Here are a few snippets:

The next steps for the High Demand Career Initiative involve an ongoing collaboration between industry and government to ensure that Georgia’s education system is offering skills that will help people get and keep jobs.

Industry examples include:

Georgia Power collaborating with South Georgia Technical College to create an electrical lineman program, whose graduates will fill a looming shortage of linemen;

Pratt & Whitney collaborating with Muscogee County’s school district and Columbus Technical College to bring in high school interns. So far, 54 interns have participated and half earned jobs with the company after graduation.

On the government side, Deal has proposed the state Legislature agree to expand financial aid available to students enrolled in technical colleges in some high demand training programs.

The governor also proposed that the state’s Board of Education allow computer programming credits to count toward requirements for math, science and foreign language. Deal also has asked the Board of Regents to count those credits for admission to its institutions.


Words of Spelman College grad a beacon in ground-breaking resolution of Detroit’s $18 billion bankruptcy

The words of a Spelman College graduate were a guiding principle in the historic bankruptcy settlement of Detroit.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” is the quote by Marian Wright Edelman, valedictorian, Class of 1960, and 11-year chair of Spelman’s Board of Trustees. Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973 and serves as its president.

The words are cited in the opinion issued Nov. 7 by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, of the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern District.

Rhodes presided over a fiscal resolution that’s been described as historic for the way it unified the resources of Detroit’s civic, cultural and non-profit organizations to resolve the city’s $18 billion bankruptcy case.

Rhodes’ ruling indicated that he reflected on Edelman’s words during his deliberations. The judge said the quote was introduced to the proceedings in testimony from Fredia Butler, a community rights activist.

The quote appears in the fourth paragraph cited below. This is an excerpt from the conclusion of Rhodes’ ruling, which is a written version released after the oral presentation:

The origin of the quote varies among reports. “The Quotable Graduate,” a book, dates it to a commencement address in 1992; “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” a non-profit organization, dates the quote in a post on its Facebook page to a commencement address in 1983.

Edelman was born in 1939. She grew up in the segregated south, in Bennettsville, S.C. and became active in the civil rights movement while at Spelman, according to a profile in Edelman was arrested during a sit-in in Atlanta, an incident that focused her attention on studying the law, according to the profile.

Edelman was graduated from Yale Law School and worked with the NAACP in Mississippi before moving to Washington to serve as a lawyer for the Poor People’s Campaign being started by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., according to her biography on

Edelman soon moved on to Harvard University, where she directed the Center for Law and Education. She left after two years to start the Children’s Defense Fund, according to


Dreams of jobs training hit realty; Atlanta vows it won’t surrender

Less than 10 percent of those who applied for a job-training program initiated by Falcons team owner Arthur Blank passed the drug/alcohol test required for acceptance to the program, according to Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory L. Young, Jr.

Young cited the figure to illustrate the challenge of job training for individuals who have troubles past or present. Of 160 applicants, 18 were accepted, he said.

The issue of jobs-training is again becoming relevant in Atlanta, as the new Falcons stadium creates jobs and filmmaker Tyler Perry prepares to build and operate as many as 17 studios at the shuttered Fort McPherson.

In a related development, a new report suggests the reemergence of redlining in some of the very Atlanta neighborhoods that struggle with low household income and higher rates of unemployment. Georgia Tech Professor Dan Immergluck’s report predicts some of these areas will take a “very long time” to recover value lost during the great recession.

Workforce training is a well-worn issue in urban affairs. It’s also an issue in which politics make it hard to do much of anything, because any one thing will never adequately address the scope of the condition.

Laying blame contributes to the issue’s complexity, Young said.

“Some would condemn this entire population – shame on them,” Young said during the Oct. 10 meeting of the council’s Community Development/Human Relations Committee.

“But they are our neighbors, and more often than not the neighborhoods that raised them, they stay there,” Young said. “They are less able to compete in a very competitive job market. I’m asking for your help to help a similar demographic as the people I serve.”

Evidently, shaming is a common community response for the applicants who failed the academic and/or drug and/or alcohol requirements of Westside Works and other adult training programs. Westside Works is the brightest of lights in the stadium neighborhoods, as residents hope to benefit from Blank’s promise to help some of them get construction jobs.

Meanwhile, Atlanta is taking steps intended to help keep youngsters out of trouble, and to train adults for meaningful jobs.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, with support from the Atlanta City Council, has re-opened recreation centers in a bid to give youngsters a constructive place to spend time. The centers address the notion of idle hands and the devil’s workshop.

At his second inauguration in January, Reed garnered a standing ovation when he said the city would help troubled individuals get back on track. Reed called it a human rights issue.

“If you put the gun down, we’ll put a book in your hands, a job in your hands; we’ll work to put a future back in your hands,” Reed said. “Prisoner reentry is not simply a criminal justice issue … or race – it’s a human rights issue.”

In August, Reed addressed the city’s long-troubled job training program by naming one of his top advisors to retool the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency.

The agency’s management has drawn fire for years, and Reed acted amidst the crescendo of an internal audit, an ongoing federal criminal investigation, and an external review.

The pressure is on Michael Sterling, the new AWDA director, to be quick in providing results.

Civic leaders and councilmembers voiced hopes that the AWDA will fulfill the promise of federal funds that are provided to Atlanta to teach residents the skills needed to get and keep a meaningful job.

“Sir, you are our best hope; our next generation hangs on you,” said Tony Torrance, a community leader working to clean the Proctor Creek basin. “We appreciate you for revamping AWDA. We appreciate the new group trying to push the agency forward in a new direction because it’s going to take that, where this city is going is going to take that.”

Councilmember Joyce Sheperd called on Sterling to create training programs specifically for the film industry. Skills are unique to that industry, she said, and she requested a report within 90 days on steps AWDA has taken.

“I know it’s tough,” Sheperd said. “But as we roll out jobs in our community, we have to give them training.”

Councilmember Michael Julian Bond noted that the problems associated with skills shortages and fitness for work date back for generations. Failure to fix them now will be a mark on the legacy of public servants, he said.

“Something has to be done, in the city of Atlanta … about poverty that has existed in Atlanta for all my life, and I’m 48,” Bond said. “If it continues to persist, those of us who have given public service will not have done very much.”

But it was Young who struck the strongest notes.

“You help those people , and we get the others and we will give you everything you need,” Young said. “God has placed you here for a very unique purpose. You’re not carrying that by yourself.”

Sterling had come to the meeting prepared to present a quarterly update on changes he has made in AWDA. He had talked about initiating efforts to help individuals find jobs, to restructure the office staff, to recovering a state award that had been withdrawn.

Sterling’s concluded his remarks to the committee with these comments:

“We are developing a timeline, a project dashboard. After we finalize that project dashboard, I’ll be happy to share with members of the committee as well, and the entire city council.

“The first step is to get strong,” Sterling said.


Atlanta’s jobs program should teach skills film industry needs in order to help locals get work, councilmember says

Atlanta’s workforce training program should help residents learn the skills needed to get jobs in Atlanta’s film industry, an Atlanta councilmember with a unique perspective said Tuesday.

“The movie industry is hot in the city of Atlanta,” Atlanta Councilmember Joyce Sheperd said in a meeting of the council’s Community Development and Human Resources Committee.

Sheperd made her remarks following a presentation by Michael Sterling, who described the administrative changes he has made since taking the helm of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency. Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into the agency for activity that preceded Sterling’s arrival on May 7.

In his presentation, Sterling said he has shifted some personnel and said others are no longer with the agency. The agency now focuses on improving services to individuals who come seeking job aid. AWDA has eliminated monthly job fairs that resulted in few hires, because few employers attended. And he intends to ask leading businesses to hire AWDA trainees, which will bolster the program’s reputation.

The AWDA board does not have a chairperson and a third of the board positions are vacant, Sterling said. Mayor Kasim Reed is carefully vetting potential members, he said. The mayor has sole authority to appoint AWDA board members.

Sheperd has an influential role in the public policies that are promoting Atlanta’s film industry.

Sheperd serves on the state authority that’s overseeing the planned sale of part of Fort McPherson to filmmaker Tyler Perry. Sheperd also represents the district where the EUE/Screen Gems Studio was built with help from Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm; Sheperd served on the Invest Atlanta board as the city council’s representative.

Sheperd has long maintained that few Atlanta residents are getting hired at the Screen Gems studio.

A few low-level jobs are available, along the line of janitorial services. But area residents are not getting hired for the better paying jobs that were described before the studio opened in 2010 and during its subsequent expansion.

Sheperd told Sterling that AWDA should consider devising a jobs training program around the specific work skills required to get one of the better paying jobs.

“That industry, the jobs there are interesting, they’re not your regular 9-to-5 jobs,” Sheperd said. “That’s an interesting industry.

“I’m not talking about actors, ‘I want to be a star,’” Sheperd said. “I’m talking about the lights, the grips, all of that. And we’re talking about training to make that happen.”

Sheperd has talked for years about the complexity of job creation in an urban setting.

For example, during the debate over allowing a potential Walmart to be built in Buckhead, Sheperd said she recognized that area residents didn’t want a big box retailer – and noted that those interests had to be balanced again the desire to allow a project that would create jobs in construction and future operations. The Walmart was not built.

Sheperd continued:

“I hope that within the next three months or so, the next time you come with a report on something we’ve done to make it happen. To develop a training program. I know that’s tough [but] we have to get them training. … It has to be a certain type of training. It’s almost that [you] have to create training around it.”

Gwinnett County created this type of workforce training in the 1990s.

Gwinnett Technical College was one of the county’s recruitment tools for companies looking at sites in metro Atlanta. Gwinnett Tech would agree to create training programs specifically designed to teach the skills the companies needed from their local workforce.

Sterling said he and his team are devising a “project dashboard” and he will keep the council informed as to its development.

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