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Laura Boalch, Technical College System of Georgia Q&A

Q: Please share with us your background and how you came to work at TCSG.

A: In the mid 1990’s, I began working in the Legislative Budget Office (LBO). In this role, we were charged with the development of the state budget for TCSG (then Department of Technical and Adult Education - DTAE) and various other agencies for the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia State Senate. At that time, admittedly, I knew very little about the Technical College System of Georgia as I had taken the more traditional route of attending the University of West Georgia to earn my BBA in Accounting. During my time at LBO, I had the opportunity to travel around the state visiting TCSG campuses. After talking with students, faculty, and staff at the colleges, I soon learned the purpose of what we do at TCSG and why we do it—to supply local business and industry with a skilled workforce. I was fascinated with the mission of the system and the passion of the faculty and staff. I quickly realized the significant impact of TCSG and how the system was changing the lives of Georgians by providing a better-qualified workforce for our communities. During this time, I also realized that many people had a misperception of the true value of our technical colleges as a viable career pathway. Many people felt that an education from a technical college was somehow inferior to a 4-year degree. This couldn’t be further from the truth and I’ve spent the last 25+ years working in various roles to change that image and make a stronger, more lasting impact. My first role at TCSG was Budget Director and, through the years, I served as Assistant Commissioner for Administrative Services and Assistant Commissioner for External Affairs where I spent 20+ years at the State Capitol lobbying and promoting the system. I also spent three years at West Georgia Technical College as the Vice President for Economic Development working closely with business and industry, local workforce partners and community leaders, which led to my current role.

Q: What is your current job and responsibilities?

A: I am currently the Deputy Commissioner for Economic Development (ED). In this role, I work closely with the Economic Development divisions across our 22 technical colleges to provide short-term, customized training for business and industry that is designed to fit those needs that fall outside the scope of our traditional academic programs. Whether companies are seeking OSHA/workplace safety, computer skills, industrial maintenance training, or leadership/supervisory development, we are equipped to meet their needs. The colleges’ ED divisions also offer continuing education and professional development opportunities for a variety of occupational areas.

Q: TCSG offers more construction programs on the academic side, but tell me about what the colleges provide in terms of training in economic development.

A: A better question is, “What can’t we provide?” We offer technical training in industrial maintenance, welding, OSHA/workplace safety, logistics, leadership, lean manufacturing, hospitality and food safety, computer applications, workplace fundamentals, construction fundamentals … you name it. If a college doesn’t currently offer a specific program, we can develop a training program to meet employer needs.

The thing that distinguishes Economic Development programming from the academic/credit programs is that our training is generally more short-term and customized for the needs of individual communities and businesses. Historically, we’ve focused more on developing training programs for local business and industry designed to “upskill” existing employees. Because the credit programs are not always a good fit for many individuals (i.e. — no GED or high school diploma, lack of resources, lack of confidence, entrance requirements, time constraints or a host of other barriers), we’ve expanded our programs to include other options for this segment of the population. These are short-term programs (usually three weeks or less), developed with input from our industry partners, that lead to industry-recognized credentials/certifications that equip these individuals with the skills to obtain in-demand jobs with sustainable wages and benefits. These programs can be offered with flexible scheduling, formats, and are delivered at a company location or at any of the college campuses.

Q: Workforce development is one of the construction industry’s biggest initiatives, what programs does TCSG have that impacts this issue?

A: Everyone struggles with finding and keeping skilled employees. We have an abundance of resources available to provide short-term, meaningful training to employers that can help with upskilling and retention of existing employees. We work with state-of-the-art equipment and have experienced and knowledgeable instructors who can impart industry standards and expectations to trainees. We can also offer employee assessments to help companies screen potential candidates and determine where skills gaps exist and what training is required. We also have online resources that companies can utilize to develop customized training pathways based on individual needs or deficiencies.

One of the most recent ED initiatives was the addition of four mobile welding labs equipped with state-of-the-art welding booths that are currently traveling around the state to help colleges expand their reach and capacity in addressing the critical need for skilled welders. We can literally bring training to you—whether it’s rural Georgia or downtown Atlanta. This is training that leads to high-paying jobs with career pathways for long-term success. In short, we are a resource, with a large toolbox, to help employers deal with training needs and workforce skills gaps and we’re available statewide.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: The most rewarding part of my job is seeing lives change. It's hearing the stories from a high school dropout that recently obtained a GED. Or an inmate that graduated from a welding program and started his first job and is making $23 an hour. Or a first-generation college graduate. It’s the life-changing impact that we have on these individuals. The faculty and staff at the colleges truly love what they do and I’m so fortunate and humbled to be part of such a great group of people that are truly transforming lives and making a tremendous impact around the state.

Q: What are your interests outside of work?

A: I enjoy traveling and golfing, but unfortunately I haven’t had much time to do either over the
past few years. I also spend a lot of time working in my yard and playing with my three
Labrador Retrievers.


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