GNTC, Floyd County Prison opens career path for inmates

May 24, 2024

 A partnership between Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) and Floyd County Prison offers offenders a path to employment as Class B commercial truck drivers after their release.

GNTC and Floyd County Prison recently held a graduation ceremony that celebrated the first cohort of Class B CDL graduates, offenders that earned their GED® diploma and the newest cohort of offenders that earned a certificate of completion in Shielded Metal Arc and Flux Core Welding.

 Four offenders from the Floyd County Prison participated in the Class B CDL program’s first cohort and graduated on May 3; classes are taught at GNTC’s Polk County Campus in Rockmart. The curriculum is the same as that for all other students seeking a Class B commercial driver’s license (CDL), and graduates received a Certificate of Completion upon successful completion of the course.

“The program is important because it offers an opportunity for the future for the offenders,” said Judy Roddenberry, instructor of Commercial Truck Driving at GNTC. “With a steady income and proper support, we hope that this makes a positive impact on each student’s future.”

Six offenders recently completed a welding class at GNTC’s Mobile Welding Lab at the prison and received their Certificates of Completion at the May 3 graduation ceremony. Also recognized during the ceremony were nine offenders who completed requirements to receive a General Educational Development (GED®) diploma.

GNTC has partnered in the past with the prison to host programs to help prepare offenders for life after their release, including providing courses for welding, GED® diplomas and basic business skills, such as computer usage.

(From left) GNTC Vice President of Adult Education Lisa Shaw, Errol M. Windhom and GNTC Vice President of Economic Development Angela Berch. Windhom received his Certificate of Completion at the May 3 graduation at the Floyd County Prison.
(From left) GNTC Vice President of Adult Education Lisa Shaw, Errol M. Windhom and GNTC Vice President of Economic Development Angela Berch. Windhom received his Certificate of Completion at the May 3 graduation at the Floyd County Prison.

These partnerships dovetail with Gov. Brian Kemp’s efforts to help offenders to reintegrate into society more successfully after their release from prison. Kemp signed Senate Bill 218 last year to make it easier for former offenders without drivers’ licenses to obtain identification cards, as well as proof of training and programs they completed while incarcerated, including GED® diplomas and other educational degrees.

To participate in the program, each offender has to complete online theory training for Class B CDL, as well as pre-trip, backing and driving training. Each offender has obtained a Class B CDL license, Roddenberry said. Training includes driving in traffic and practicing turning at intersections.

Roddenberry is excited about the opportunity to partner with Floyd County Corrections on the Class B CDL program and looks forward to more opportunities to do so in the future. GNTC will also help participants with job placement after completing the program if needed, Roddenberry said.

Barry Tweedy, CDL instructor at GNTC, also taught the CDL class for the offenders.

This program builds on an existing partnership between GNTC and the prison for offenders who seek careers in Welding and Joining Technology.

More than 200 offenders applied to participate in this class, while capacity was limited by the six booths in the Mobile Welding Lab, said Angela Berch, vice president of Economic Development at GNTC.

“I can’t tell you how much positive feedback I heard from Judy Roddenberry, who worked with the Class B CDL students, and Scott Edison, who worked with the Welding students,” Berch said, adding that receiving the certificates proves their instruction by two industry professionals has set them up for success.

“Education opens doors and will positively impact these individuals as they return to Georgia’s workforce,” said Lisa Shaw, vice president of Adult Education at GNTC. 

Berch praised Warden Michael Long and his staff for their help in getting the program going so easily and efficiently. She said GNTC is seeking future funding to continue the programs at the prison and characterized the working relationship as a “win, win, win partnership.”

GNTC’s partnership with the prison began in 2020. GNTC received authorization from the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) to borrow one of its Mobile Welding Labs with classes starting in June 2020. Four months later, a dozen offenders received a Certificate of Completion in Shield Metal Arc and Flux Core Welding from GNTC.

In 2023, GNTC utilized grant funds to purchase its own Mobile Welding Lab and Advanced Manufacturing Training Lab. The labs are fully self-contained, can be set up anywhere as needed and can be used for continuing education training and corporate training. 

TCSG lists Commercial Truck Driving and Welding and Joining Technology as two of Georgia’s high demand career fields, meaning there is a shortage of qualified candidates to fill current or anticipated vacancies in specific career fields.  

Shaw thanked the partners who support GNTC’s Adult Education program, including Floyd County Prison officials and staff, TCSG Office of Adult Education and Truist Bank. In addition to offering GED® classes, Adult Education partners with GNTC’s Office of Economic Development and Truist Bank to offer programs, like CDL and Welding programs, to help the graduates as they move into Georgia’s workforce.

The funding for this cohort of both Class B CDL and Welding was funded through a grant from Truist Bank.

“I know that you had to overcome obstacles to be here today,” Shaw said. “You all have one thing in common. You set a goal, you stuck to your plan, and you achieved it.”

muriaShaw shared inspirational words from author Jon Gordon, encouraging the graduates to believe in themselves and to keep showing up and doing the work regardless of whether other people praise, criticize or do not notice their work.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma or a certificate in aviation, business, health, industrial or public service career paths. This past year, 11,601 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,071 students and an additional enrollment of 3,530 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training and Georgia Quick Start. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.

# # #