Macon Telegraph - January 22, 2013, By Maggie Lee
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is asking the state Legislature to approve a $10 million school in Warner Robins that would offer academic credentials to members of the military to round out their armed services training and channel them into civilian work.
The center’s mission would be retraining military veterans for the private work force, especially in critical areas such as nursing and truck driving, said House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire.
“The military is an excellent proving ground for logistics,” he said, as an example. “Part of that is truck driving. But these people get out of the military and they can’t get a commercial driver’s license.”
Both the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia would offer classes. Technical College System Chancellor Ronald Jackson said he and University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby have yet to sit down and talk about the division of the programming they would provide.
Students will be able to get “credit for their (military occupation specialities) training in line with our course curriculum so they don’t have to take as many courses,” Jackson said.
The center also would house much of the civilian and military training that the Technical College System of Georgia already handles under contract, Jackson said.
Deal’s proposal calls the school the Military and Veterans Academic and Training Center. His proposed $10 million bond would build and equip a 50,000-square-foot facility in Warner Robins “within sight” of Robins Air Force Base, O’Neal said. A few sites are under consideration. He declined to specify them but said it’s possible the city of Warner Robins could donate land. The center would also house the 21st Century Partnership, a nonprofit that promotes the base and helps defends it from any cuts that might come from a federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
Jackson and O’Neal said the school would demonstrate Georgia’s commitment to the military, which may be helpful if BRAC comes calling.
The center also would be a “statewide employment agency” where employers can recruit talent, O’Neal said. “We’ll have more work-ready people in the disciplines that the military provides probably than anywhere else in the Southeast, especially mainframe people for airplanes.”
If the Legislature approves, a bond for the $10 million would be sold sometime in the fiscal year beginning in July. O’Neal declined to speculate on any ground-breaking date. It’s also not yet clear how many students could attend.
The state Board of Regents also requested $4.75 million for a similar center in Hinesville near Fort Stewart. The governor did not recommend that bond.
The Warner Robins gateway center would turn out graduates to match some jobs that Deal is trying hard to fill.
Of jobs currently available in Georgia, three “sort of stand out from the rest: that is commercial drivers ... nursing and early childhood education,” Deal told the joint Senate and Hope Appropriations Committees hearing Tuesday.
Separately, he’s asking the Legislature to spend an additional $6.5 million for larger Hope grants for technical college students taking up any of those three fields.
Deal also wants the Legislature to approve an additional $2.5 million dollar bond to help buy properties around Robins Air Force Base, helping to finance part of the so-called “encroachment” solution, O’Neal said. The federal government says an area north of the base is too noisy and prone to plane crashes for residents’ safety, so Georgia and local governments are buying up the properties and clearing people out. Last year, the Legislature approved an initial $2.5 million for encroachment.
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