Georgia Piedmont Technical College, a member of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), is located in Clarkston (DeKalb County). In addition to the main campus, the college administers the Newton Center in Covington (Newton County), the Rockdale Center and Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers (Rockdale County), the Regional Transportation Center in Lithonia (Rockdale County), and a campus in Madison (Morgan County). In spring 2010 Georgia Piedmont Tech’s total enrollment was around 4,800 students.
The population served by the college is racially and ethnically diverse, and Clarkston is a popular refugee relocation site. Georgia Piedmont Tech’s adult literacy program, one of the largest in Georgia’s technical college system, demonstrates the school’s commitment to educating local and international students seeking to learn English as a second language (ESL), continue their education, or advance in the workforce. The college was also instrumental in garnering Certified Literate Community Program status for DeKalb County in 2006, and in 2011 it was honored by the TCSG for having the highest number of students within the system to receive U.S. citizenship.
In October 2011 Georgia Piedmont Tech began a yearlong celebration of its fiftieth anniverary.
The college was established in 1961 as the postsecondary unit of the DeKalb County Board of Education. That same year, under the directorship of Paul Lowery, the school’s first class of eighteen students enrolled in its first program, electronics technology. The present-day campus in Clarkston opened in 1963 as the DeKalb Area Technical School. Jim Clark succeeded Lowery as director in 1966.
In 1972, under the directorship of Travis Weatherly, the DeKalb Area Technical School merged with DeKalb College (later Georgia State University Perimeter
Starnes was appointed president in 1985, when the school came under the governance of the new State Board of Postsecondary Vocational Education, with daily operations remaining under the control of the DeKalb County School System. Starnes was largely responsible for the school’s multicampus expansion and for increasing student enrollment. In 1996 the college officially transferred from local to state governance and began operating as a unit of the Department of Technical and Adult Education (DTAE, later TCSG). Its name also changed to DeKalb Technical Institute that year, and the Covington campus opened in 1997.
In 2004 DeKalb Tech was listed as the fifth fastest-growing community college in the nation by Community College Week magazine. Robin Hoffman was appointed president in 2005, and the following year DeKalb Tech opened its Rockdale campus. In 2007 the college completed a 78,470-square-foot addition and renovation to its Clarkston campus. That same year the DTAE created the Technical College System of Georgia, an entity comprising the thirty-four colleges then under its administration. The DTAE’s name officially changed to TCSG in 2008.
In 2009 the college opened a new center in downtown Madison, expanding the adult education program that it had been operating out of a local church since 2001. The new facility opened on the second floor of the Old Creamery Building, giving the campus its nickame “the Creamery.” In the fall of 2011, all TCSG institutions transitioned from the quarter system to semesters, and that same year DeKalb Tech’s name changed to Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Hoffman retired in 2011 and Larry Teems was named acting president.
Technical Education and Economic Development Programs
The TCSG, in overseeing the state’s system of technical colleges, its economic and workforce development programs, and its adult literacy program, has as its primary objective to create a well-educated, technically trained, and highly competitive workforce to ensure the economic success of the state and its citizens.
As with other technical colleges governed by the TCSG, admission to Georgia Piedmont Tech relies on eligibility and academic criteria: candidates must be at least sixteen years old (older for some programs) and must provide high school transcripts. Admission to the college does not guarantee admission to credit programs. If standards for a certain credit program are met, students can earn an associate degree, an expanded program of study that facilitates career mobility and continuing education at the baccalaureate level; a traditional diploma; or a technical certificate of credit, a short-term targeted program that prepares students for specific jobs.
Through such initiatives as Quick Start, a nationally recognized program that develops training for new and existing industries in Georgia, Georgia Piedmont Tech has provided specialized job training for numerous companies. One notable example was Doraville’s General Motors plant, which was challenged in 2004 with updating its technology to keep its Georgia facility in operation. Quick Start provided technical and operations training for 3,600 plant employees. (The Doraville plant closed in 2008.)
Based on the number of graduates, the college’s most popular programs in 2005 were automotive mechanics technology, computer systems networking, air conditioning and electrical technician, and commercial vehicle operation. In 2006 the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) partnered with the school to provide commercial drivers license testing and a transit coach operations program to new MARTA employees. In 2007 the college demonstrated its motorcycle service technology program at the annual “Taste of the Technical Colleges” event, which showcases valued programs in technical education. The school also hosts a dealer training center for Polaris Industries, a producer of snowmobiles, motorcycles, and all-terrain-vehicles.