Chattanooga Times Free Press

Walker Public Schools to expand workforce training


Four new professional pathways will be added to Walker Launch, Walker County School’s workforce preparedness program, under a $3 million grant from the board of Georgia’s technical college system.

A learning lab for mechatronics, a field relating to production lines, will be added for students this fall in the 500 Building at the Georgia Northwestern Technical College in Rock Spring, according to Damon Raines, Walker County Schools superintendent.

After that, a culinary lab will be built in the building’s kitchen, while learning labs for the health care and teacher preparation pathways will be added to the nine available for students training for the workforce through Walker Launch.

“A large percentage of our students need to go directly into the workforce,” Raines said. “So this really provides them some on-the-job training before they’re on the job physically, to better prepare them for that workforce.”

Multiple local companies could hire students who complete the hospitality and culinary pathway, but Raines said Rock City and the McLemore resort, both on Lookout Mountain, have expressed a need for more workers. Large Walker County employers like Roper Corp. and Audia plastics have helped develop the mechatronics program, which will allow students to go directly to work after graduating high school.

Students who attend Walker Launch earn technical certificates of credit along with their high school diploma through dual enrollment classes at the technical college. In the first five years of the program, according to

“Our goal is to prep kids to be college- and or career-ready.”


Walker County Schools, students collectively earned 108 certificates.

“We’ve been working on this for 18 months,” Raines said. “This is a huge collaborative effort with the chamber, economic development, Top of Georgia and the school system. All of that aligns perfectly with our mission and to be able to create a workforce for those groups.”

Career pathways currently available for Walker Launch include: heating and air conditioning, welding, cosmetology, logistics, computer networking, criminal justice, medical assisting, health care pathways and early childhood education.

In a written statement, the school system said Walker County was the only school system to receive the grant.

Josh Ingle, superintendent for Dade County Schools, said he signed an agreement with Walker County Schools so their students could participate in any programs not available at Dade County’s job training program.

Details of the agreement still need to be worked out, he said in a phone call, adding that he expects those discussions will happen after the first of the year.

“Our goal is to prep kids to be college- and or career-ready,” Ingle said. “For the kids choosing to go straight to work or a technical school, we certainly want to prepare them for the workforce. Whether it’s in Dade County, Walker County or Catoosa County, all the kids in Northwest Georgia — they’re all our kids — they are the future of our workforce.”

There are 58 College & Career Academies in Georgia, including the addition of Walker Launch, and more than 3,000 business partners collaborate with Georgia’s College & Career Academies.

For more information on Georgia’s College & Career Academies, visit

Contact Andrew Wilkins at or 423-757-6659.