Education fills a triple role in Gwinnett”s high-tech industry. It is the chicken, the egg and the diner waiting for breakfast to be served.
Good schools, at both the secondary and college level, attract high-tech companies. They prepare the workers needed for these companies to succeed. As users of high technology, schools also may be consumers of the companies” products. Changes in the local high-tech landscape, therefore, often require quick and direct responses from educational institutions – and those who call Gwinnett home are up to the challenge.
As part of a regional effort to build a life sciences "Innovation Crescent" from Athens to Atlanta, Gwinnett Technical College and Athens Technical College received funding to establish the Georgia Bioscience Technology Institute to encourage and train students for life science careers.
Those technologies range from the implanting of medical devices to agricultural processes such as generating biofuels or genetically modified plants, says Dr. Phil Gibson of Gwinnett Tech.
There is also a growing demand for employees who can develop multimedia video gaming programs — for entertainment and for instructional use, says Dr. Jon Thacher, program director for computer programming and Internet-Web design at Gwinnett Tech.
State tax incentives helped boost the number of gaming companies in north Georgia from five in 2004 to 60 now, says Thacher, and a new incentive will push that number higher. To meet the need, Gwinnett Tech now offers a program in Computer Simulation and Game Development.
"It”s always our obligation to look beyond today to how many people [with specific skills] will need to be hired in the future," explains Sharon Bartels, president of Gwinnett Tech. "Staying ahead of the work force is the goal."
Other innovative training and technology uses occurring in local classrooms include:
- At Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), Dr. Jim Nolan is leading biology students in looking at the changing DNA sequences of viruses that affect bacteria, a process that uses high-level equipment.
- A group of faculty led by David Pursell, GGC associate dean of science and technology, is embracing cell phones as a classroom tool. Notes and flash cards for biology and chemistry are loaded into the cell phones so students can study on the go.
- Some post-secondary and public classrooms in Gwinnett use interactive "clickers" to allow students to immediately respond to lessons and to measure their understanding. White boards, video and other high-tech strategies also bring lessons to life.