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WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — A Georgia center that helps military veterans transition to civilian life soon will be able to offer accelerated training for a job that's high in demand.

The Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center expects to offer an electrical technician accelerated training program in January, thanks in part to a $100,000 grant from an Atlanta-based foundation, The Telegraph reported.

Retired Air Force Col. Patricia Ross, the center's chief executive officer, said requests to add a program to serve the construction industry have been coming in since the facility opened in August 2016. State and federal labor data show that the demand for electricians is projected to grow by more than 9% by 2026, Ross said.

"To ensure we met employer needs, we surveyed both commercial and residential construction companies across the state, and for skilled jobs, electricians were identified as the greatest need," Ross said.

Having received $3.9 million in state funds for expansion of the center, VECTR conducted the informal study to identify the type of labs that would help the construction industry the most.

The expansion was already underway for three new labs and programs. But additional money was needed to equip the electrical construction lab, once it was identified through the survey as one of the needed labs.

"While the state does give us some money for equipment, quite honestly, the technical programs, the hands on training that we do, requires some very specialized — and it tends to be very expensive — equipment," Ross said.

Ross pitched the idea for the electrical construction lab to The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which agreed to provide the grant money through its Overwatch Fund that assists military and veterans.

Dale Flythe, division manager for ACE Electric in Macon, said the company has felt the impact of few electricians available for hire.

"We're currently trying to hire electricians now, but they are so few and far between that we're hiring green, or very inexperienced (employees), and we're having to kind of (offer) an abbreviated (training program) internally now," Flythe said.

By partnering with VECTR, "we know that they'll be trained up to our standards that will alleviate the learning curb tremendously," Flythe said.

He said the company is excited about helping with the military and veteran population in its recruiting efforts.

"We feel like that coming out of the military (with) veterans, you can get a better quality candidate for employees because they've had real work experience and they know what it's like to come to work every day and they have a better mechanical knowledge as well," Flythe said.

In considering an electrical construction lab, another key factor was the pay for electricians, Ross said.

"Our goal is to be able to have our military members transition into a great career that is able to sustain their families, get them food, a house, all that good stuff, everything they need," she said.

The median annual wage for electricians was $55,190 in May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic's Occupational Outlook Handbook.

At the VECTR center, veterans learn how to identify their skill sets and how they can be applied to civilian careers that are in different fields than those they were in while serving in the military.

"If service members want to change career fields, this typically requires education and training," Ross said. "Those wanting another career in a different skill set are who we educate at VECTR.

"They attend our accelerated courses in high demand careers to get a jump start and a household sustaining wage with employer partners across our region and state."

The center also offers a Small Business Administration's Boots to Business class that helps equip veterans to open their own businesses.

The center, which plans to offer the electrical course in its fall and spring semesters, projects an annual enrollment of about 30 for its electrical technician accelerated training program, Ross said. Each semester is 15 weeks. Those enrolling will have the opportunity to earn two technical certificates of credit and 21 college credit hours as part of the program.

"They'll have additional on the job training," Ross said. "This will put them about half way to a diploma, or about a third of the way if they wanted to get their associate's degree.

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