After sixty years of offering students of all ages and backgrounds a variety of vocational and technical training in north metro Atlanta, Chattahoochee Technical College estimates that on August 14 it will welcome more than 14,000 students at its eight college campuses.
THE EARLY YEARS
Chattahoochee Tech began with one building in 1963 serving 120 students in its Marietta location on South Cobb Drive. Known initially as Marietta-Cobb Area Vocational Technical School, the school was established through the joint efforts of the State Board of Vocational Education and Marietta City Board of Education.
To accommodate growing numbers, the college added classroom space at the Marietta campus. In the years following, the campus established additional locations to support more students in South Cobb, East Cobb, and nearby Paulding County.
The South Cobb campus opened in 1995, followed by opening the Chattahoochee Tech Paulding campus the next year. In 2000 the Mountain View campus opened its doors in East Cobb.
In 2009 Chattahoochee Tech celebrated one of the most significant milestones in its history with a merger with Appalachian Technical College in Pickens County and North Metro Technical College in Bartow County. Representatives from the board of directors of each college adopted the name Chattahoochee Technical College for the single institution.
David Simmons, vice president of Facilities for all eight campuses, shares, “I’ve been with the college for almost twenty-four years. It is a great working atmosphere. What we do is phenomenal. Training and educating students to go out into the workforce and into the businesses in our communities is what we specialize in.”
A NEW CAMPUS: PAULDING COUNTY’S AVIATION TRAINING ACADEMY
Next year a new aviation training academy will open its doors in Paulding County, becoming the ninth campus for Chattahoochee Tech. The location will be adjacent to Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport. The $35 million project is on track for completion in December
of this year.
Classes will begin in the spring of 2024 for three of the four programs offered: structures, avionics, and apholstery. The capstone Airframe and Powerplant technician program will begin after FAA certification of the academy. The new facility will encompass the whole aircraft under one roof.
Students will study aircraft structures-composites, flight controls, avionics, turbine and piston engine power plants as well as training in regulations and documentation standards, which govern how aircraft maintenance is accomplished and recorded. Students participating in these programs will have the skills and certifications to work for any aircraft manufacturer or maintenance organization and work in any industry where technical skill and ability to adapt to a variety of mechanical equipment meet high pay.
CHATTAHOOCHEE TECH’S IMPACT ON CHEROKEE COUNTY
Two of Chattahoochee Tech’s eight campuses are in Cherokee County: Canton and Woodstock.
The Canton campus on Bluffs Parkway is one of the newest campuses for Chattahoochee Tech. Opened in 2011, the 62,000-square-foot facility sits on twenty-five acres and offers classes and programs in air conditioning technology, business management, general education, healthcare, health sciences, and occupational therapy.
The Canton campus also offers General Educational Development [GED] certification testing, which isn’t currently available at every campus. The testing allows students who have dropped out of high school to prepare and train to take the GED test, allowing them to move forward and pursue any of the college’s other programs.
The Woodstock campus, in the heart of downtown Woodstock on the former site of Woodstock Elementary School, is the second of two locations in Cherokee County. Built in the 1930s, the campus underwent an extensive $5.3 million renovation in 2013 and reopened for the 2015 fall semester. Here students pursue classes in accounting, biology, cybersecurity, economics, English, history, humanities, kitchen and bath interiors, math, political science, psychology, and sociology.
Chattahoochee Tech in Woodstock houses The Circuit, a 30,000-square-foot co-working space designed for innovators and startups in Cherokee County. In addition to hosting regular events through the Cherokee Office of Economic Development [COED] Fresh Start Cherokee program, the space features an in-house coffee shop run by Circle of Friends, an organization that provides support and jobs to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Circuit also serves as the student center for Chattahoochee Tech’s Woodstock campus, acting as a collaborative space for startups, small businesses, and students.
David shares, “It’s a great partnership that we have between the college and COED. It provides the opportunity for other people to be on our campuses to see the aspects of what we do and what we offer, and it’s exposure for the college and startups. Plus [it gives] opportunities for businesses to network with our students. It’s a win-win for students, faculty, staff, and COED.”
NEGATING EDUCATIONAL BIAS
Vocational and technical education has gained considerable attention as an alternative to traditional academic pathways, particularly for students seeking more affordable, cost-effective ways to start their careers. The hands-on, practical skills taught at Chattahoochee Tech and other technical colleges prepare students for specific careers. Graduates leave equipped with expertise to enter the workforce quicker, which contributes to their employers’ success sooner.
Pam Carnes, president of the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce and board member for Chattahoochee Tech, sheds light on previous viewpoints of higher education: “For those of us who were in the generation to be told, ‘You can learn a trade or you can have a career,’ they’re one and the same. I want the person who cares for my car, house, et cetera, to be very well-trained, just as I want a physician to be well-trained. The person who will repair something for me, build something for me, I want them to build on their future, and their education from a technical college can help sustain them.”
Pam and others hope the ongoing success of vocational and technical education as an alternative to traditional academic pathways validates the value of these programs.
“That stigma is still there, but knowing and realizing that in most open positions today, a high percentage of employers are looking for training that [students] receive from a technical institution rather than a four-year university,” David adds. Chattahoochee Tech also offers dual enrollment programs, in which students take classes as a junior or senior and get high school credit and college credit. “It’s a good way to get ahead if you’re focused and know what you want to do and the direction you want to go,” he offers.
Chattahoochee Tech’s continuous contribution to brighter futures was highlighted when mathematics instructor Adrienne Baldwin was named the state of Georgia’s top technical college instructor for 2023. The Technical College System of Georgia presented her with the Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction in April. As the award winner, she will represent technical education throughout the state as an ambassador, meet with the governor, and address the Georgia General Assembly.
Adrienne notes, “Technical colleges are known for their high job placement rates after graduation. They provide opportunities to make the transition from being a student to having a career earlier in life. Students enrolling into a technical college can select a more career-focused program, receiving hands-on training taught by instructors with years of experience.”
Pam adds that technical colleges like Chattahoochee Tech provide benefits such as smaller classrooms, which create more opportunities for one-on-one conversations. Smaller classes, she says, allow students to build a rapport with the instructor. “It’s also knowing that you can get training and certification in a shorter period of time, ultimately leading to incredible employment opportunities.”
Because of the various ages and backgrounds of the students, Pam says, “The classroom isn’t going to look like a traditional classroom, and that’s okay.” She continues, “With online learning opportunities, people don’t have to come directly to the classroom. We’re all lifelong learners, and technical education is now at your fingertips.”
To learn more about available and upcoming courses at Chattahoochee Tech in Cherokee County and beyond, visit ChattahoocheeTech.edu.
This article was originally featured in the July/August 2023 issue of Enjoy Cherokee Magazine. Visit their site to read it online or to explore their other featured articles.