Promises made, promises kept: Ignite CCA and TSG Resolute

Published 1:32 pm Wednesday, January 5, 2022

One Sumter Foundation put out a call in March of 2017. The call was loud and made to anyone who would invest in the future of Sumter County. The call was ambitious and would demand the best a community could offer. The call was bold. The call was one which said, we, the residents of Sumter County, were going to take things into our hands and not let Sumter County fall behind. One Sumter had done their research and the outlook for Sumter County was not a good one unless we took a stand and brought our best to the table. The call was heard. It was met with a unified community who believed in our potential. It was embraced as vital, and we got to work. One Sumter’s research indicated there were key areas we needed to address as primary needs. One of those is workforce development. Workforce development has many moving pieces, but the most obvious is training and preparing our residents to enter and move about effectively in industry. The greater our ability to do so, the greater our ability is in attracting the attention of potential industry as well as keep our current businesses staffed and growing. Industry touches everything in this community from healthcare, to how much we pay in taxes, to crime rates, to general quality of life. So, what could Sumter County do to ensure we were ready to get to work?

One Sumter realized addressing education was a ripe area for investment. So, the call started by rallying our education providers, both higher education, as well as our private educators and the Sumter County Schools (SCS). But the call would reach much further, we wanted to hear from business and industry in Sumter County. What did they need? Would they come to the table to help us prepare a vital workforce? As One Sumter tells it, they began “pursuing the critical relationships with Sumter County’s business community that will create the backbone of this new education model.” Then individuals passionate about Sumter County signed onto the cause. The best way to bring all of our desires to fruition was to shoot high. Sumter County has never backed down and we rallied to make a home for a college and career academy. The odds seemed large and not in our favor. But every once in a while, a David rises up to take on Goliath and the battle is won. Our Ignite College and Career Academy is the spoils of such a victory. With Ignite winning a grant worth over three million dollars, the entire State of Georgia endorsed Sumter County’s efforts. As Ignite is becoming a reality, One Sumter states, “everybody wins.”

One Sumter is correct. The winning has begun. Under Dr. Don Gilman’s leadership as CEO, the CCA has enrolled over 900 students in less than a year. They also enjoy relationships with 102 business partners. Together, the CCA and the business community take a student, train them in technical skills, but also teach them soft skills which are just as important. How to fill out an application, how to present well in an interview, knowing that showing up on time is needed, how to follow appropriate protocol if an employee needs to take sick or vacation time, how to simply meet customers and shake a hand, it is all important. The benefit for the student? They dramatically increase their potential to find success in the work force. They multiply the chance they will find out exactly what their talents are best suited for, they get involved in higher education while still in high school, they get to see rewards of all types to include personal satisfaction, grow their work ethic and at the end of the day, earn a financial reward.

Friday, December 17, 2021, brought first fruit for Ignite. TSG Resolute, (Tape Specialists of Georgia), is a world class manufacturer providing adhesives, insulators, metal fabricated parts and many other products which enable other manufacturers to complete their tasks. They showed up in a large way during these COVID-19 times by producing plastic face masks. TSG was a powerful member in standing up for Ignite, and they are the first to place students at their facility. Ben Greene, Hardari Harris, Jason Wells and Micquvious Powell are upper class students who are excited to get a taste of what it is like to be in the workplace. Dr. Don Gilman refers to these gentlemen and TSG as “trail blazers.” Dr. Gilman is correct in his assessment as they will always be known for being the first of many who will put feet to Ignite’s mission.

The students will be working closely with TSG from January to May, for 15 to 20 hours per week.  According to Reagan Barksdale, TSG-Resolute President, the company will provide mentors to the students, and they will start with basics. TSG will start to help answer questions such as “What do you do with your first paycheck? Why is it important to show up to work on time? We start with soft skills and then we will layer that as they begin to work in the plant every day. We will begin with the simple things, and then have them in manufacturing classes to help move them along. The idea is to help teach them the value of hard work. If they succeed, we can move them up and get them more complicated training in the work they do. We are just excited!”

Don joins Reagan in his excitement. “We are excited to have this partnership. This is just the beginning of many partnerships we look to build in the business community, as we begin the process of moving our young adults into the workforce. That’s the whole goal behind Ignite.” Gilman further states Ignite is “happy to have this opportunity and our doors are always open to the community to show them our facility as well as work with them as we will TSG.”

The invitation stands. If your business or industry would like to learn more about how to move this dream forward, please do not hesitate to contact Betty Suggs,  Work-Based Learning Coordinator by phone at 229.931.8851 or via email at esuggs@sumterschools.org. Although the inaugural partnering industry is TSG, please know all types of businesses are welcomed and needed. There are many students who have dreams to seek careers as entrepreneurs, florists, mechanics, carpenters, culinary workers, agricultural experts and the list goes on. No matter your business size or specialty, you will be valued in this mission.

As with businesses, Ignite stands ready to enroll more high schoolers. What an awesome way to learn where your passions and talents lay. Ignite is providing the space and time to ensure their students walk into a career confident in their choices and competent in both their skills and their business acumen. As with businesses, a student or parent may contact Betty Suggs if they desire to invest in making solid decisions regarding college and/or career options.

To learn more about Ignite College and Career Academy, please visit, ignitecca.com. While you’re researching, take a look at what Sumter County is offering through TSG Resolute at tsgresolute.com. Want to learn more about moving Sumter County forward? One Sumter Foundation is a great place to start. Their initiatives as well as how to become involved in making our home the best it can be, are found at onesumter.org.

Thanks for proving it can be done One Sumter, TSG, Ignite, Ben, Hardari, Jason and Micquavious, oh how we needed you to answer the call. Congratulations Sumter County, you are indeed mighty! You wear your success with beauty and grace. Onward and upward!