Once a predominantly rural area, Gwinnett has been one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties since the 1970s, due to its proximity to downtown Atlanta and its commitment to economic expansion. Gwinnett Tech is recognized for its dedication to workforce development and has provided training to such companies as Scientific Atlanta, Delta Air Lines, Johnson & Johnson, and Rooms to Go. Gwinnett Tech also offers one of the largest adult literacy programs in Georgia’s technical college system, educating local and international students who seek to learn English as a second language (ESL), continue their education, or advance in the workforce. The college is a member of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).
Originally Gwinnett Area Technical School, Gwinnett Tech was established under the direction of Alvin Wilbanks in 1984 as an area magnet school focusing on health and business education. To meet local industries’ growing demand for a technologically trained workforce, however, the school quickly began offering programs that would prepare students for the changing workplace. In 1988 Gwinnett Area Tech became Gwinnett Technical Institute, and a year later it became one of the few technical schools accredited with the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Sharon Rigsby, the school’s current president, was appointed in 1996.
In 2000 Gwinnett Tech became Gwinnett Technical College due to legislation (Georgia House Bill 1187) that allowed technical institutes offering associate degrees to be called colleges. In 2002 Gwinnett Tech converted from local to state governance, becoming the last technical college in the state to come under control of the Department of Technical and Adult Education (DTAE). The George Busbee International Center for Workforce Development, a state-of-the-art training facility, opened in 2003. That same year Gwinnett Tech opened its English Language Institute on the main campus to work specifically with the growing number of ESL students enrolling at the school. Other campus expansions included the Computer Training Center, the Corporate Training Center, the Environmental Horticulture Center (for the study of horticulture), and a health sciences building. In 2006 Gwinnett Tech opened its D. Scott Hudgens Jr. Early Education Center.
According to the DTAE’s 2005 annual report, 7,380 students were enrolled in certificate, diploma, or degree programs, and 14,596 additional students were enrolled in noncredit courses. That same year the school enrolled 8,536 in its adult literacy programs.
In 2007 the DTAE created the Technical College System of Georgia, an entity comprising the thirty-four colleges under its administration, and in 2008 the DTAE’s name officially changed to TCSG.
Technical Education and Economic Development Programs
The TCSG, in overseeing the state’s system of thirty-four 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 Gwinnett Tech relies on eligibility and academic criteria: candidates must be at least sixteen years old (older for some programs) and must be high school graduates or possess a General Educational Development, or GED, diploma. If these requirements 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.
In 2005 the program with the largest number of graduates at Gwinnett Tech was automotive mechanics technology. In response to a projected shortage of automotive technicians, the college doubled its general automotive course offerings in 2004. The expansion was followed in 2005 by a $15,000 donation from Nissan USA, which recognized Gwinnett Tech as an outstanding training program for Nissan technicians in the United States. In 2005 the college also became home to one of only thirty DaimlerChrysler College Automotive programs nationwide.
Emergency Medical Technology (EMT-Paramedic) is another popular and nationally recognized program at Gwinnett Tech. In 2005 the college’s EMT-Paramedic program became the first in the state to receive national accreditation. The following year, 100 percent of the school’s intermediate EMT students passed the written exam of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Gwinnett Tech offers other emergency services programs as well, including emergency management and fire science.
Already a strong player in health sciences, Gwinnett Tech received a grant from the DTAE to expand its nursing programs in 2006. The following year, Gwinnett Tech and Athens Technical College were co-recipients of a $1.9 million grant to create the Georgia Bioscience Technology Institute, for the training of teachers and students in bioscience and biotechnology. Additional biotech programs offered at Gwinnett Tech include clinical research and veterinary science.
In response to area business needs, Gwinnett Tech implemented programs in cabinetmaking, cybercrime, public/private crisis management, and technical communications in 2006, as well as simulation/gaming development in 2007.