One of the biggest things to happen to vocational training in the Southeast is happening right now in Augusta. For the past year, Augusta Technical College has been planning something so great, that it now has nationwide attention. We are going to build one of the largest automotive training facilities in the country, and we are doing it in downtown Augusta.
With the closing of the Johnson Cadillac Automotive dealership, Walton Way was left with a city block sized hole of inactivity. This will be changing soon, as this is the new location of the training facility. We are planning to keep the facility mostly intact and operate it as it was designed. Training will expand to 15 programs, covering everything automotive, motorsports, electric vehicles and even heavy-duty trucks. We will also be adding factory training programs from major manufacturers.
With almost 70,000 square feet of space, we will have room to educate more students than ever before in the same environment they will be working in professionally. As a byproduct of this, downtown Augusta will be getting a long-time tenant full of students to stimulate the economy and increase the surrounding property values.
Automotive technicians are in short supply. With the added complication of vehicles, training new technicians is key to automaker’s long-term success. Over 90% of my students get full-time jobs in the industry within the first year of graduation. I get calls from shop owners looking for technicians a few times a week, but we can only train so many with the limited space we have presently. With the new facility, we can train almost 1,200 students at a time in a variety of areas. We are also planning to add educational paths for established technicians already in the field so they can keep up with the ever-changing technology.
Most of the costs associated with the new training center will be paid by donations, not the taxpayers. With a $1 million donation from the Augusta National and another $1 million from the Jim Hudson Auto Group , it is easy to see that private corporations have seen the value in vocational training.
We will have more announcements soon with more partners in this endeavor. The days of hiring and training a technician on the job are over and working with employers to fulfill their needs are something Augusta Technical College does great work of. Vocational training and STEM education is making a comeback, and I am proud of our team that is leading the charge.