OFTC Supports Local Transportation & Mining Industries with New Instructional Center
Oconee Fall Line Technical College (OFTC) hosted a ribbon cutting for their newly renovated Instructional Center in Sandersville, Wednesday, February 23.
Since its inception, the transportation and mining industries have been a key focus of the college.
“Our goal has always been to support the local economies within our 11-county service area,” shared OFTC President, Erica Harden, “and our emphasis on meeting needs within the transportation industries and through mine safety training is one of the ways we support that mission.”
Meeting Industry Needs
In the 1990’s, commercial truck driving was the first instructional program offered at the college and two of the county’s largest industries were trucking companies – B-H Transfer and Howard Sheppard. Those companies still exist today and OFTC continues to produce graduates to meet the companies’ growth.
Within the last ten years, OFTC has produced over 1,000 commercial truck driving graduates with a 92% in-field placement rate.
As the state of Georgia’s grant awardee for the U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) Grant, the college’s department of Economic Development has been involved in MSHA training courses for more than 20 years thanks to the college’s proximity to mineable kaolin deposits which are found in a narrow belt along the Fall Line, resulting in the Kaolin mining industries locating their processing facilities to the communities OFTC serves.
Over 2,000 miners are trained each year on OFTC’s campuses or at company sites, and classes are taught in an open enrollment format or can be customized to meet a company’s specific training needs.
Training A Workforce
While these industries continue to prosper within the state and throughout the nation, the need for skilled workers and training is great.
“Today more than ever, the need for trained commercial truck drivers is crucial, and everyone is seeing the impact of driver shortages in the supply chain,” shared Charles Tarbutton, President of B-H Transfer. “Oconee Fall Line Technical College has partnered with B-H Transfer for over 25 years. They produce quality CTD graduates who are ready and willing to work in our local area. It’s crucial that industry leaders support and our elected leaders invest in the training the technical colleges provide if we want Georgia to remain the number one place to do business in the future.”
And since the need is great, when the county’s former law enforcement center was vacated, the Washington County Board of Commissioners made the decision to deed the building to the state of Georgia for renovation on what would become the college’s new Instructional Center which would support both the expansion of available space and new programs for the transportation and mining industries in the college’s 11-county service area.
The Instructional Center opened in January and will provide OFTC’s transportation students and mine safety training attendees with state-of-the-art technology in a renovated building that is adjacent to the college’s truck driving range. The center consists of classroom and office space for the college’s robust truck driving program, and MSHA and other Safety Program courses offered through the College’s Business and Industry Services division. In the future, OFTC plans to add a diesel equipment technology lab and program at this location.
“The OFTC Instructional Center in Sandersville will help to provide training that will assist in filling gaps within our regional workforce and demonstrates OFTC’s commitment to industry growth in our community,” added Trey Sheppard, President of Howard Sheppard, LLC. “OFTC regularly works with local industries like ours to provide skilled training for job readiness and to provide critical knowledge needed to work safely in a variety of job fields. This new facility will allow OFTC to continue to provide these services in a state-of-the-art environment.”
The Ribbon Cutting
While the facility has been open since January, the ribbon cutting was a significant event in the history of the college that was worthy of celebrating, Harden shared.
“We are thrilled to add the OFTC Instructional Center as a training resource for the college and are looking forward to watching the economic impact it will produce locally in the future,” she said.
While many were involved in the facility project, Harden made special mention to several who were instrumental to its success, including: OFTC’s local board of directors and foundation trustees, Mayor Jimmy Andrews and City Council, the Washington County Industrial Development Authority, the Washington County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Katie Monus and staff, the Washington County Board of Education, Greg Ziesenhene – Field Representative for Congressman Jody Hice, Sheriff Joel Cochran, local industry leaders in trucking and mining, OFTC’s faculty and staff, and Trey Sheppard – Chairperson for the state board of technical and adult education.
“I especially want to acknowledge and thank Chairman Horace Daniel and the Washington County Board of Commissioners for having the foresight to give a building that was in desperate need of repair to the state of Georgia to create additional educational opportunities that we hope prevents youth and adults from incarceration. We know that education is a huge deterrent to recidivism,” Harden said.
After the ribbon cutting, attendees toured the facility and enjoyed a boxed lunch.
“Thank you all for your support of the college,” she added. “We need you and continue to covet your support.”