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Lieutenant governor: Technical education the new model

By Winston Jones/Times-Georgian

Wednesday, July 19, 2012

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Tuesday praised technical colleges and college-career academies as the new education model to fit the individual needs of students.

Cagle was the guest speaker at the noon meeting of the Rotary Club of Carrollton.

“We have to design education models that fit the needs of individual students, with pathways to lead them to success,” Cagle said. “That’s why college and career academies are so important. We’re taking high school and technical college and blending them together. When students leave there, they have industry certification that prepares them for the workplace and gives them the opportunity for dual enrollment in college.”

Cagle said the old “one size fits all” approach to education is not working any more.

“I believe that every child that wants to go to college should have the right and should have the ability to do so,” he said. “But as the father of three boys, one who has a psychology degree, and the other working on a sociology degree, I will tell you, I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

As a contrast, he noted that a student can attend a technical college “right here in Carrollton,” and within two years can have registered nurse certification.

“It’s portable and you can take it anywhere in the country and you’ll come out making $50,000 a year,” Cagle said. “That’s why I’m so passionate about changing the model of education that one size fits all.”

Cagle recently participated in the recruitment of two major industries to Georgia, Caterpillar and Baxter.

“Baxter is a huge pharmaceutical company, bringing 1,500 jobs, right out of the gate,” he said. “Financial position was the number one concern, but after we got past that, their questions was, ‘where are the workers going to come from?’”

He said the company said it would need about 10 engineering graduates from Georgia Tech, but what they were really going to need was 1,400 certified technicians.

Cagle said a recent survey asked business leaders if they believed people are really out of work or is work out of people?

“Fifty percent said they had jobs, but they don’t have qualified workers for the jobs,” he added. “It’s a diversified economy that’s going to require a very diversified group of talented individuals. That’s the future and that’s what we want to commit to.”

Cagle said he has been in public service for 19 years and has never seen an economic downturn as we’re experiencing now.

“Everything we have today is valued significantly less than it was five or 10 years ago,” he said. “We’ve had to make some tough choices as well. But the beauty of a downturn is that it forces us to look at things in a different perspective.”

He said the state had to cut almost $4 billion from a $21 billion state budget. He said that required a determination of what services the government needs to provide and which ones are not essential and can be handled by the private sector.

“As a result, we now have a state which continues to be a Triple-A bond rated state,” he said. “We’re still in a position to continue to be the capital of the South.”

Cagle said Georgia is blessed to have the fastest growing port in the nation and the busiest airport in the world.

“I tell people that back in 1970, Birmingham and Atlanta were virtually the same size,” he said. “But Atlanta took on the largest investment of its time. It was called the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and because of that investment, we were able to extend ourselves and brand ourselves as the capital of the South.”

He emphasized that it’s the private sector, not government, that has created jobs in Georgia.

“Government has to create the right circumstances and the right environment, but in the end, it’s not government that creates jobs,” he said. “I believe very deeply that’s why we’re working so hard to make Georgia one of the most economic viable states in the nation. That’s why we focused on tort reform, regulatory measures, cutting taxes and making us competitive by doing things like exempting sales tax on energy to help manufacturers. I believe we have to grow our way out of this downturn. That’s the only answer. There’s no silver bullet.”

Cagle said in the past, real estate has led Georgia out of recessions.

“That’s not going to be the case for this recovery,” he said. “It’s going to be through job creation, the private sector making innovations. We have a unique responsibility, I believe, as a state.”

Cagle said he especially likes speaking to Rotary clubs since they have a reputation for giving back to the community.

“That’s very personal to me,” he said. “Early on, my dad left me when I was 3 years old and my mom raised me by herself. She had to work two jobs to make ends meet and she never took a dime of public assistance. She instilled in me the value of hard work, perseverance and love of God. The two jobs she worked weren’t very glamorous, but that was not what she was interested in. It was about paving our way to a brighter future.

“Life is not about self,” he said. “Life is about service and service to others. When we commit ourselves to that act of service, then we truly find the greatest thing that work has to offer. I appreciate you and your willingness to do that for those who are less fortunate, for stepping in to fill the gap when there is no one else to do it. I applaud you for that.”

Cagle, 46, was born is Gainesville, Ga. He served in the state senate from 1995 to 2006. He was elected on Nov. 7, 2006, as the first Republican lieutenant governor in Georgia history.