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May. 21, 2018
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Lanier Tech’s new marine technology program fills void

By Pamela A. Keene
 
When Lanier Technical College’s new campus opens in January 2019, the eyes of the marine industry will be watching. As one of four new programs on the 95-acre campus on Highway 365 in North Hall County, Marine Technology will be a much-anticipated addition to the college’s curriculum.
 
“When North Georgia Tech closed its marine technology program a couple of years ago, it left an obvious need for this training option in our area,” said Jenny Serwitz, owner of Pull Watersports in Cumming. “The program will be state-of-the-art, and its location is perfect to attract students because of all the lakes and marine dealers in this area.”
 
Dealers and other marine-related businesses like Pull Watersports, Gainesville Marina, Park Marine, Atlanta Marine, Boating Atlanta and Singleton Marine, have been generally hard-pressed to find enough qualified candidates to fill the several hundred marine technology jobs in North Georgia.
 
“We’re very excited about the new program,” said Phillip Burton with Gainesville Marina. “The industry has been needing this, especially in metro Atlanta.” Burton said that 70 to 75 percent of all boat sales in Georgia originate in North Georgia. “There are several companies who train on their engines, but right now there’s no generic program to train new technicians, no true training facility that allows students to get what they need to know in one location. We’re eager for the program to open in 2019.” 
 
Gainesville Marina employs nearly a half-dozen technicians, plus it has another five or so employees that support the marina/dealer’s service department. “We have hired people from the North Georgia Tech program, and we’re always looking for qualified technicians.”
 
Brent Danneman of Park Marine also responded positively to the news. “A training program has been needed for quite a while,” he said. “We are in full support of it and hope to get more involved.”
 
Seeking input from all
Officials at Lanier Tech are embracing input from the marine industry, not just locally but regionally and nationally as well. During the Atlanta Boat Show in mid-January, the college hosted an industry breakfast and a chance to meet face-to-face with dealers. Several asked how they can be involved and how they can help.
 
“We’ll be forming a stakeholders advisory committee within the next four to six weeks to represent every facet of the marine disciplines,” said Christian Tetzlaff, dean of the Applied Technology Division at Lanier Tech. “We want to hear from the industry about their needs and their goals, and who better to give us this kind of input than the people who are on the front lines?” 
 
“The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (the group that organizes boat shows across the country, including the Atlanta Boat Show), has been extremely supportive and helpful,” said Lauren Pugh, vice president of institutional advancement at Lanier Tech. 
 
The college sent representatives to the national marine dealer conference in Florida several months ago and in November Lanier Tech hosted the November meeting of the Marine Trade Association of Metro Atlanta on campus. “It provided a good opportunity to introduce members to the campus and our programs,” Tetzlaff said.
 
The curriculum of the Marine Technology Program is awaiting final approval, but according to published materials, the program “emphasizes a combination of marine engine technology theory and practical application necessary for successful employment in the field, qualifying students for entry-level jobs as marine engine technicians.” 
 
$5 million capital campaign
One of the keys to support of the program and the new campus is the current $5 million capital campaign being conducted. “This campaign is critical to help us raise funds for areas not covered by state funds,” Pugh said. “So far we’ve raised $2.3 million, but our goal is to complete this campaign in the next nine months.”
 
The $100 million campus represents a first for the Technical College System of Georgia. “This is the first brand-new from-the-ground-up campus to be built in the system,” Pugh said. Until now, the units of the system were housed in repurposed buildings or facilities that existed before the system was created in 2008, a renaming of the Department of Adult and Technical Education of Georgia.
 
Over the first six years of its existence, the Technical College System of Georgia consolidated from 34 institutions to 22. Students are eligible to attend through the HOPE program, as well as the federal Pell Grant. Tuition per credit hour is $89 for in-state students; for the commercial truck driving program, tuition is $178 per credit hour for in-state students. The system offers 17 tuition-free programs as part of its mission of workforce development.
 
Doubling enrollment
Nearly 3,700 students are currently enrolled in Lanier Tech’s Oakwood campus, including in-state, out-of-state and internationally. Of those, 17 percent, more than 620, are dual-enrollment.
“With the move to the new campus, we will have the capacity to double the number of students served,” Pugh said. 
 
The new campus will have six buildings – Campus Support and Educational Development, Administration, Allied Health, Instructional/General Education/Adult Education, Technology and Industry, plus a Conference Center, for a total of 335,000 square feet. An amphitheater on campus and the conference center will be used for community events. 
 
In addition to Marine Technology, the campus will add three other programs – Construction Management, Diesel Equipment Technology, and Hospitality Management.
 
Lanier Tech was founded in 1966 in partnership with the Hall County School System and the Hall County Chamber of Commerce. The first classes were held in the First Baptist Church of Oakwood. “We’ve always been very community driven,” Pugh said. “And our mission of workforce development continues to be successful, as well as our goal to serve students who plan to move on to continue their education.”
 
Statistically, Lanier Tech has 100 percent job placement for students who choose to enter the workforce after graduating. “99 percent of these students are hired in their chosen field of study,” she said. “A number of graduates also choose to further their education, and we also have adult students, some who have advanced degrees, coming here to learn the skills necessary for continued employment.”
 
Lanier Tech operates five campuses in North Georgia in Barrow, Dawson, Forsyth, Dawson, Hall/Oakwood and Jackson counties. When the new campus is complete, the Oakwood facility will relocate to North Gainesville/Hall. 
 
“We are very blessed to have such a great marine presence in this area because of Lake Lanier and other lakes in the region,” Pugh said. “And with the continued support of the marine industry and the community, we’re really excited about what next year will look like.”

Posted online 1/29/18
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