CLARKSTON, GA – Georgia Piedmont Technical College is in elite company as one of a handful of two-year colleges to be awarded a $347,688 grant from the Advanced Technological Education program through the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Strengthening High School Initiatives in Future Technology, or S.H.I.F.T. grant, is earmarked for future high school juniors and seniors in mechatronics classes at Georgia Piedmont. Mechatronics is a booming industry and is defined as a cutting-edge field that merges mechanics, electronics, and computer science to create intelligent machines and systems.

Georgia Piedmont is providing a one-year (two semesters) program designed as an Accelerated Career pathway, which offers students a unique track to high school graduation by taking high school and college courses in a career-focused plan. Students will complete their studies with two college technical certificates of credit by the time they graduate high school – putting them ahead of the hiring game in a high-tech field. The courses will run in fall of 2024 and spring of 2025.

President of Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Dr. Tavarez Holston, calls this grant award and announcement a ‘labor of love.’

“Our team has been working on this grant since fall of 2022,” Dr. Holston said. “To see it come to fruition and to know only 11 percent of colleges that apply for NSF grants are awarded is testament to what we do here. This award allows us to introduce high school students to career options in emerging technologies that result in high wages. It is timely and relevant for regional workforce development efforts.”

The S.H.I.F.T. project will run for three years with grant monies going toward equipment, faculty stipends and student support services; a total of 60 students will be recruited into the program. The collaboration between GPTC and area high schools also means the participating students will have one-on-one career exploration opportunities in mechatronics and other STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) -related fields.

Georgia Piedmont has a large percentage of economically disadvantaged and underrepresented students in STEM industries. This grant and the workforce education and training associated with it will allow dozens of young people opportunities that they may not have otherwise been afforded. Georgia Piedmont serves DeKalb, Rockdale and Newton Counties.