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    Success Stories

    Success happens every day at Workforce Development!

    Success Through Partnerships:  

    Foothills Education Charter High School Welding Program

    This spring, Foothills Education Charter High School embarked on an exciting new partnership with the Northeast Georgia Workforce Development Board and WorkForce Innovators of America, Inc. to offer 18 Foothills students the opportunity to complete a 10-week welding program at the Barrow County Foothills site. Upon completion of the program, the students earn an American Welding Society WPS Certification, along with Soft Skill Components that include Lean Six Sigma, OSHA 10 Certification and CPR Certification.

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    In 2018, the NEGRC/NEGWDB purchased two mobile training trailers for welding and industrial mechanical instruction, as well as for increasing community awareness related to jobs in the manufacturing industry. In the fall of 2019, the trailer visited Barrow Foothills, and many students expressed interest in learning to weld after touring the trailer.

    Foothills and NEGRC/NEGWDB joined forces and resources to bring the pilot program to the Barrow site. Foothills provided funds for the personal protective equipment for students, a portion of the instructional costs, background checks for instructors, costs for certification testing, and support with recruiting and job placement for the trainees.  NEGRC provided the training trailer, as well as the balance of the operational costs and instructional supplies. Instruction was provided through trainers from Workforce Innovators, Inc.  Students from the Barrow, Walton, and Social Circle Foothill sites were recruited through informational meetings and utilization of YouScience, an assessment that matches a person’s unique skills and aptitudes to a specific career field. Site directors at all three sites received information on students whose YouScience assessment showed an aptitude for welding so these students could be encouraged to attend an informational meeting.

    In February, 18 students from the three sites entered the program that required them to attend classes Monday through Thursday nights from 5pm to 8pm. This was in addition to any schoolwork needed for other Foothills courses. Because of the broad flexibility provided by their charter, Foothills was “uniquely positioned to provide the Foothills welding course. The charter flexibility was used to teach the standards from the CTAE intro to welding course in a 10-week period, using instructors from Workforce Innovators of America.” 

    The current COVID-19 situation caused three of students to drop out of the course while the rest resumed the soft skills portion of the training (i.e. resume writing, interview skills, problem solving, financial literacy, six sigma) in an online format with nightly Zoom meetings.  The hard skills components of the welding instruction were completed June 2 – 12. 

    This course proved successful and valuable to the students. The multiple certifications earned prepared all students for jobs in the industry.  At program conclusion, every student’s skills were reviewed by hiring representatives from Kubota Industrial Equipment and Caterpillar.   Eleven of the 15 students who were 17 and over were asked to interview for full and part-time jobs.  The remainder of the class are well-qualified for the work-based learning opportunities offered in the Fall and Spring of 2021.

    Certifications earned were Lean Six Sigma Intro, CPR/First Aid/AED Training, Welding Safety, Forklift operation’ and Introduction to MIG Welding.   Of the 15 student completers, two were female.

    Foothills Superintendent Sherrie Gibney-Sherman stated, “We could not be prouder of our Foothills students. At Foothills we work very hard to help students earn a high school diploma. We identify barriers and work with students to find solutions to overcome barriers. For the last two years we have been focusing on helping students make the transfer from Foothills to the right post secondary or industry certification path that will lead them into the workforce and a great career.  The welding project is an example of our efforts. We want students to not only have success in completing their diploma requirement, we want them to also be able to navigate the work world and be contributing citizens to this great state. These students not only learned excellent, important welding skills but they got to participate in actual interviews, complete applications, and all 15 students have been placed in a welding environment as a work-based learning student or full time employment with salaries and benefits. We are super proud.”

    Student Voices from Foothills Welding

    Joey Cagle:

    I love it. It got me thinking about my future and a career in welding. It is a great opportunity for students who cannot afford this type of program. The people want the best for you, but you must be willing to work and put in the work. I am learning so many other skills, too—resume writing, interviewing, and life skills. We spent 6 hours talking about attitude and confidence. These are skills that will help in any career.


    Destiny Evans:

    I found out about the program through the announcements, and I went because it sounded interesting and I did not really have a plan for the future. The program opened my eyes. There is a stigma that welding is a task that “big strong men do.” But I realized how easy it could be for me, and I am learning skills beyond welding—blueprint reading skills that could help with architecture, time management skills that could help in business. Schools should have more programs like this because not all kids are good with books. Public school offers a “one size fits all,” but society is changing, and we need more options.

    For information on this or other WorkSource Northeast Georgia WIOA funded programming, please contact the NEGRC, Workforce Development Division at (706) 369-5703.


    Jennifer was a stay at home mom for 14 years raising 5 boys in Madison County until she and her husband divorced.

    With only a high school diploma, she knew that she was going to have to return to school in order to help support her kids. Jennifer had a friend that went through the Athens Technical College’s nursing program with financial assistance through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and that friend told Jennifer to give the WIOA office a call. Jennifer decided to do just that and in November 2009 enrolled at Athens Technical College with the help of WIOA in the Surgical Technology program. Jennifer received the HOPE grant but it was WIOA that really helped get her through. By assisting her with afterschool childcare, transportation, books, uniforms, equipment and certifications, Jennifer was able to complete the program in December 2010. Jennifer is now working full-time at Northridge Medical Center as a Surgical Technician in the operating room. She said “If it was not for WIOA, I would never have been able to return to school. I love what I’m doing, not only can I provide for my boys financially but I’m now a role model for them as well. I have told many of my friends about the WIOA program and how it helped me and my family. As a single mom, if I can do it anyone can, the resources are out there all you have to do is call”.



    John is a 29 year old Clarke County resident who was laid off from Recycle South in 2009.

    He said he did not see the layoff coming, was unprepared, and had to figure out how to support his wife and three kids. He had always wanted to drive an 18-wheeler so he began researching the companies in the area that offered CDL training. When he found a local company he called them and realized very quickly that the cost of getting his CDL license was totally out of reach for him. John continued to visit the local Department of Labor and continued his search for a job. He commented to a DOL employee that he had always wanted to drive a truck over-the-road but just could not afford it. He was referred to Workforce Investment Act (WIA) staff through the Northeast Georgia Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and as he said “the rest is history.” Staff met with John, completed his enrollment application and arranged to pay his tuition at the CDL of Georgia driving school in Winder, Georgia. Upon graduation in June of 2010, John went to work with Interstate Transport, a company out of Tacoma, Washington with hubs all over the eastern states. “WIA was the best thing that could have happened to me. It has allowed me to do something I’ve always wanted to do. It has also allowed my kids to see that you are never too old to return to school. I’m making great money doing something I love and can now provide for my family. If not for WIA, I’m not sure where we would be right now.”


    Ofelia and her husband owned a drywall business in Commerce, GA. When the housing market went under, many of their customers went bankrupt which forced Ofelia and her husband to close their business.

    Without any source of income, Ofelia knew she was going to have to return to school to further her education. Ofelia was able to receive the Hope Grant and enroll in the Medical Assisting Program at the Lanier Technical College Winder campus. Ofelia was struggling financially and driving from Jefferson to Winder every day was becoming a hardship. She heard about the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program through some of her classmates and decided to give the program a call. WIA enrolled Ofelia in January 2010. By assisting her with transportation, books, uniforms, equipment and certifications, Ofelia was able to complete the program in December 2010. She started her new career and job on December 20, 2010. Ofelia is currently a Medical Assistant at the Tri-County Internal Medical facility in Buford, GA. The facility has three primary doctors, four physician assistants and ten medical assistants. Ofelia said “I love what I’m doing and could never have finished if it wasn’t for the support and help from the WIA program. My education is really paying off. I have told many of my friends and co-workers about the program and its benefits. I feel very lucky and fortunate to have received WIA”.


    Amber is 26 years old and lives in Clarke County. She is the single mother of a 4 year old daughter, a prior WIA student and currently helps supply blood to patients in need of transfusions.

    Back in 2003, Amber attended Lanier Technical College where she enrolled in the drafting & design diploma program. When she completed that program, she landed a job with a drafting firm, sitting at a desk all day and drawing parking lots. Although Amber said the job was extremely boring, she was determined to use her skills and do her best. When the economy took a downward turn, the company had to downsize and Amber was laid off. She found herself working part-time jobs at several fast-food restaurants including the Waffle House, and of course, she had no benefits. Amber knew she was going to have to return to school and also realized that no matter how bad the economy got, people were going to get sick. Amber said “the medical field will always be in demand so that’s where I wanted to go. I didn’t know how I was going to do it or how I was going to pay for it.” She was unsure how she was going to juggle being a single mom and being a full-time student with no funds. Amber went and visited the Lanier Technical College’s satellite campus in Barrow County where she received information on financial aid and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) services. Amber was eligible for PELL and took advantage of the WIA funds, and said “once I spoke with someone at the WIA office and learned of the benefits, I knew I could do it.” Amber enrolled in the Medical Assisting diploma program at Lanier Technical College in April 2010. She graduated March 2011. Amber said “without WIA’s assistance with childcare, transportation, paying for books, uniforms and physicals, not only would I have not been able to return to school but I would have never landed the most amazing job, working for the American Red Cross.” Amber began working for the American Red Cross in June 2011. She works on the Bloodmobile as a Medical Assistant/Phlebotomist traveling all over Northeast and Northwest Georgia. Amber said “the entire process for a patient takes about an hour from beginning to end with the actual bleed time only lasting 5 to 15 minutes however, it’s usually the customers that pass out that requires the extra attention.“ A courier service will come, pick the blood up, take it to a facility in Douglasville where it is ‘manufactured´ and then sent out to the surrounding hospitals and clinics. Amber said “not only is this job rewarding but I feel like I’m giving back to the community AND I get to travel around and meet some real great people. I would encourage anyone that needs retraining to call the WIA office for help. It truly is an amazing program.”