Helms College Equipping Students to Fill the Gap in Middle-Skill Labor Shortage

By Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA Senior Director of Communications, Angi Harben

A report released by the Southern Regional Education Board affirms the value of Helms College’s model of providing a solid knowledge base with experiential learning opportunities to equip students to fill an ever-increasing number of middle-skills jobs. With campuses in Macon and Augusta, Helms College is a private, independent postsecondary career school sponsored by Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia, Inc. and is licensed by the Georgia Non-Public Post-Secondary Education Commission.

“Our robust economy is facing critical middle-skills labor shortages,” said Jim Stiff, president of Helms College, which offers accredited programs in hospitality and health services. “Southern states are especially challenged by a shortage of qualified people to fill vacant jobs in growing economies. Helms College is equipping students to fill high demand occupations that will keep enterprise growing and people advancing on career paths leveraging a bigger slice of the American dream.”

The National Skills Coalition says vacancy in middle-skill jobs is the greatest emerging threat to the economies in Southern states. With more than 1,000 graduates since 2011, Helms College just welcomed its largest incoming class ever. When students graduate, they will be prepared to step into those vacancies.

Helms College is uniquely poised to serve human and economic development opportunities with specialized, effective case management services for students, academic classroom rigor, and applied learning both on and off campus. Edgar’s Hospitality Group provides restaurant, event and catering experiential learning opportunities for students of both Helms College Hospitality Schools. The two program paths in the School of Health Services prepare students for hands-on patient care or medical coding in an industry expected to grow faster than any other. When students are ready to step into their new careers, Goodwill’s Job Connections support students in their employment search.

“Many Helms College graduates receive multiple job offers.,” Stiff said. “They often have their pick of opportunities because our students are able to demonstrate and apply the skills employers seek. Our faculty is world-class, and we are graduating students that are well prepared to embark on successful high-demand careers.”

Final quarter graduates from the Macon campus of Helms College donned caps and gowns for their commencement ceremonies, attended by family members and friends at Anderson Conference Center on January 17.

With programs in Health Services and Hospitality and the Culinary Arts, Helms College earned its national accreditation in 2011 and has a growing reputation for its hands-on instruction from experienced faculty in supportive, experiential learning environments.

“We’re committed to providing access to affordable education that helps students succeed in fast-growing industries,” said Gary Markowitz, Ed.D, senior vice president of education at the private, independent postsecondary career school sponsored by Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA (Macon, GA). “We’re equipping students to go out and build career pathways to success.”

As is the case with many of Helms’ graduates, Ciera M. Turner turned her zeal for cooking into an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts. “I’ve always had a passion for cooking and I wanted to further my education by attending culinary school,” said Turner, who was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and raised in Macon. “I learned how to cook from my father and my grandmother. I joined the United Sates Army as a Food Service Specialist (Cook), and once I came off active duty I knew that cooking is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

She still serves her country as a Food Service Specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve, is married to Willie Fowler, Jr. and is mother to three children She also works at Helms College and Edgar’s Bistro as a Chef Assistant.

She praised the small class sizes and a detailed, hands-on training experience as the most valuable part of her education at Helms College. “I love how the instructors went above and beyond to help me learn,” said Turner, who said her training also helped build confidence. “I was nervous to work on the line, but I learned how to put plated food out in a neat, timely manner. And what also helped build my confidence was cooking certain food items that I’ve never cooked – or even heard of!”

Turner is well on her way to accomplishing her future goals of opening a small restaurant in Macon or Atlanta and operating a food truck. She also wants to offer cooking classes for youth in Macon and the surrounding counties.

“If cooking is your passion, then take a step out on faith and attend Helms College,” Turner said. “I can promise you that it won’t be easy. But it’s worth the sweat, tears, sleepless nights and hard work in the end. You won’t regret it!”