Grant supports engineering education at GICCA

Engineering students at the Golden Isles College and Career Academy will have an opportunity this semester to gain hands-on experience learning a skill that is in high demand across the job market.

The Georgia Power Foundation presented the school last week with an engineering and technology grant for $13,926 that will be used to purchase programmable logic controllers (PLCs) for the engineering lab. Students at GICCA will be able to build and maintain the PLCs.

These industrial, digital computers are used in manufacturing industries to monitor inputs and outputs and make logic-based decisions for automated processes or machines.

The grant intends to enhance the student learning experience while equipping students with the workplace skills that local companies are seeking in employees.

“We received over $10,000 that we’re going to use to provide programmable logic controller boards that you guys are going to help build throughout this semester as you learn to work these programmable logic controller boards,” GICCA principal Joseph Depenhart told engineering students during class last week. “And then we’ll have them here as an asset in this classroom. We’ve already ordered all the parts.”

This experience will equip students to go directly into industry jobs, said Greg Smith, who joined GICCA’s staff this year as the new engineering instructor.

Smith, who moved from Floyd County, brings 30 years of experience in the field as well as a background building an engineering program for students in Rome.

He recently participated with Depenhart in a conference call that included human resource managers for numerous local companies in the engineering and manufacturing industry.

Many expressed the ongoing labor force demand for skills like the ones students will learn in the engineering pathway.

“It’s hard for some of the local businesses to find these little niche people that can do this stuff,” Smith said.

Education at GICCA can propel students directly into lucrative jobs, or into a technical college education or four-year college degree program.

“That’s kind of the secret to the College and Career Academy, is taking advantage of the opportunity we have to get them out of the desks, out of the books,” Smith said.

GICCA was one of 14 recipients of the Georgia Power Foundation grant, for which 160 applications were received.

“We’re a special power company in that we like to invest in the education of our youth and community, and we believe that these are the building blocks to building a successful Georgia,” said Dialo Cartwright, Brunswick area manager for Georgia Power, who presented the check last week.