- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Gov. Nathan Deal and other state leaders plan a variety of projects to improve the education and skills of Georgia’s workers after industry executives told them they often can’t find qualified employees.

The executives’ overarching message - that finding Georgia talent with the right skills is often difficult- wasn’t new but still unsettled some audience members during months of meetings focused on specific industries.

In a wide-ranging report released Wednesday, the state laid out potential fixes including a push for money to provide HOPE grants to students of high-demand skills, language credits for computer science courses and a University of Georgia-run “film academy” to train more workers for the TV and film industry drawn here by tax incentives. HOPE grants are for residents working toward a certificate or diploma at an eligible Georgia college or university.

Long term, companies also pushed for earlier introduction of science, mathematics, engineering and technology concepts in schools and better development of so-called “soft skills” in young people - communication and critical thinking, for example. Others said they struggled to find employees with basic reading and math skills.

Chris Carr, chairman of the state Department of Economic Development, told lawmakers this week at a pre-session conference that the effort was a “proactive search to talk to Georgia companies.”

“This is a long-term investment the state is going to make to create a pipeline of communication” between the business community and the state’s university and technical college systems, Carr said.

A series of 13 meetings with industry representatives around the state began in April, after Deal in January charged economic development and higher education leaders with the job. State officials said more than 80 companies participated, including some of the state’s Fortune 100 giants like Home Depot and Delta Air Lines.

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