The Murray County Chamber of Commerce selected Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) as its 2022 Innovator of the Year.

The Chamber’s Executive Team and Board of Directors chair select “a Chamber member business who goes above and beyond their daily process or routine to build impact” to receive the award, said Eli Falls, president and CEO of the Murray Chamber and the Industrial Development Authority.

GNTC was selected due to the partnership and willingness to create the Murray Works Employment Academy, which caters to workforce recruitment needs of local large employers and is focused on graduating high school students. The award was presented Thursday, April 7, at the Chamber’s annual meeting.

“We took a laundry list of requests and honed those down to create a 10-day robust bootcamp/academy for a participant to graduate with specific trainings needed to land a career with Certificate of Completion in hand,” Falls said.

GNTC’s Vice President of Economic Development Stephanie Scearce accepted the award on behalf of GNTC.

“The program’s goal is to equip graduates of Murray County high schools, with no post-secondary plans, with the knowledge and skills to fill entry-level manufacturing jobs that become high-quality, high-performing manufacturing careers,” Scearce said. “While individual companies have more specific trainings for new hires, this overview will expedite the initial process.”  

The program, which is slated to launch in June, will cover an array of topics designed to prepare students for jobs with local manufacturers, such as a history of the floorcovering industry and its technological developments, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10-Hour General Industry Training, forklift operator awareness training, warehousing skills and Excel Level 1 training, she said. The classes will be held Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to simulate a work schedule.

Murray Works will host a celebration for those who complete the program and set up interviews with prospective employers, Scearce said.

The idea for Murray Works grew from a brainstorming session in October 2021 and developed by working with Falls, she said.

“Many higher education institutions possess the resources necessary to engage students, but GNTC did more than listen to our idea; they jumped on board and partnered with our vision for Murray Works,” Falls observed.

“From sitting in on the inaugural meetings convincing top employers to support the program to finetuning the list of workforce recruitment challenges, GNTC took this challenge and ran with it,” he said. “Partnership is instrumental when it comes to a successful innovation.”

GNTC promotes workforce development with customized training to meet specific industry needs. This program’s innovative funding mechanism sets it apart from other non-credit trainings.

“These programs are typically driven more by specific companies paying GNTC to perform a more detailed, contract training program,” Falls said. “Murray Works Employment Academy is very broad, Chamber driven and will be held annually.”

Non-credit training offered through GNTC’s Office of Economic Development differs from credit programs in that they do not qualify for typical financial aid options, such as the Hope Scholarship or Pell Grant. The cost for non-credit training has to be recovered, and participants are usually the ones who bear the costs, Scearce stated.

“Employers wanted to offset participants’ costs so it wasn’t a barrier to pursuing entry-level manufacturing jobs,” she said. “The Chamber and local employers found a way to fund 100% of those participant training costs. I’m pretty humbled by that community commitment.”

Other nominees for the Innovator of the Year Award were Bradley Ace Hardware for its internally-developed marketing plan for products and availability, which proved effective during the COVID-19 downtime, and CMC Logistics who have supported Georgia’s Port Authority when designing statewide efforts to expedite transport of supplies from ship to shore, Falls said.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma or a certificate in aviation, business, health, industrial or public service career paths. This past year, 11,134 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,528 students and an additional enrollment of 2,606 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training and Georgia Quick Start. For more information about GNTC, visit us at GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.