The June 7 Transform Westside Summit featured Atlanta Technical College President Dr. Victoria Seals as a guest speaker. Dr. Seals shared about ATC’s work to provide workforce development to individuals across the metro Atlanta area, including Atlanta’s Historic Westside. This workforce development is helping change the trajectory of people’s lives – training them in high-demand skills, placing them in high paying jobs and cultivating lifelong careers.
A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia, ATC provides educational opportunities and experiences through academic and innovative career preparation, service learning and multiple program delivery modalities that lead to technical certificates, diplomas and associate degrees. ATC is committed to enabling student development and success in a competitive global economy.
“We’ve been in the community for more than 50 years. We want to make sure all our citizens are aware of the resources we bring to the area,” Seals said. ATC’s motto is “Start Strong. Stay Strong. Finish Strong.” That’s exactly what the nearly 6,000 students live by while attending ATC, and it’s a motto they take with them once they’ve graduated, she explained, noting ATC boasts a 99 percent career placement rate. “It’s not about job placement, but career placement.”
ATC offers 150 different technical programs ranging from accounting and cosmetology to criminal justice and early childhood education. According to ATC, students who complete one of ATC’s programs are growing their household incomes by as much as an average of $40,000 annually.
ATC is an eligible provider for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program with the state of Georgia, offering additional funding to economically disadvantaged adults, at-risk youth and displaced workers seeking training to increase or enhance skill levels in order to gain employment. Later this fall, ATC will open its Center for Workforce Innovation with a goal of reaching even more students, according to Dr. Seals. It will offer three programs based on high-demand industries, including skilled trades, aviation and IT/coding.
“The most unique part about the Center for Workforce Innovation is, because of our partnerships, we’re able to offer wraparound services,” Dr. Seals explained. This means ATC can provide for each student a more individualized experience that goes beyond the classroom, encompassing assistance with transportation costs, childcare and even housing.
After concluding her presentation, Dr. Seals opened the floor for questions. One guest asked if the Center for Workforce Innovation would be available to high school students. Seals answered the opportunity is for those with high school diplomas or GED certificates only. However, she continued to explain ATC has programs that support high school students with college preparation and dual enrollment programs. Through the dual enrollment offerings, high school students who matriculate through the dual enrollment programs will graduate with their high school diploma and earn a two-year technical degree from college at the same time.
Another attendee asked what ATC can offer for individuals without a high school diploma or GED. Dr. Seals shared about ATC’s GED courses, which help individuals prepare for the GED test with training and practice tests.
When someone asked if ATC was actively recruiting students in the community, Dr. Seals responded that ATC hosts several recruiting events. She also mentioned how ATC recruiters attend events and community meetings, throughout the west side to share about the college.
Questioned about the financial support available for ATC programs, Dr. Seals explained ATC works with FAFSA, Pell and HOPE grants. She said these funds can assist students with paying for tuition, books and other required fees, and ATC staff can help connect students with the appropriate financial assistance, depending on their needs. “If you’re a first time or first-generation student and you’ve never done it, it can be overwhelming,” Dr. Seals said. “We have resources on campus to help individuals walk through the process.”
Dr. Seals was then asked what she believes is holding many students back from attending technical college. She answered she believes, in some cases, the perception may be that technical school doesn’t offer highly sought-after degrees. She also mentioned it’s possible that some people have anxiety or fear to overcome about college if they are a first-generation college attendee. Dr. Seals explained her own experience by sharing, “I’m a first generation college student; neither of my parents graduated high school. If I can go from that background to now being a college president…you can do it, too!”
When asked how ATC serves students with special needs, Dr. Seals said the college works to provide all students with an assessment, which helps determine the needed accommodations. She said ATC will work with special needs third-party partners to ensure these accommodations are met and will also help place students with special needs in programs aligning to industries that are special-needs friendly.
Westside Future Fund President John Ahmann closed the Summit presentation by sharing ATC will host a table at future Summit events where residents and others can register to attend ATC.