You’d be hardpressed to find a tech company recently that doesn’t explicitly mention the local young talent pool as the main reason for setting up shop in the State of Georgia.
Airbnb, Nike, Google, Microsoft, and countless other household names have relocated or added offices in the city to connect with young, diverse tech talent coming out of Georgia Tech and the Atlanta University Center Consortium. But colleges across the state are doing their part to feed the talent pipeline. Several have revamped curricula or added new tech programs over the years to keep up with the changing Atlanta tech scene.
Georgia Tech’s various engineering programs traditionally rank high nationally, making it a natural breeding ground for company recruiters. But UGA, the state’s oldest university, has become a larger player over the last decade.
Despite awarding its first engineering degrees back in the 1860s, the University of Georgia only officially opened its College of Engineering in 2012. Dr. Donald Leo, dean of the college, told Hypepotamus that 10 years ago UGA graduated about 450 engineering students. Today, that number is over 2,600.
UGA currently offers 16 engineering programs between the undergraduate and graduate levels, with tracks in environmental, computer, and biochemical engineering degrees on top of civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering degrees within the College of Engineering.
Leo said that a vast majority of those enrolled are not only in-state students, but also most take their first job in the Metro Atlanta area or somewhere across the state.
“We were created to provide opportunities and help the economic competitiveness of the state…and the data shows that we are doing that,” he added. “We see students that are going to places like Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, Gulfstream, Google, Amazon, and Tesla. But also a lot of small to medium-sized companies across the state are now looking to us because they recognize we’re a new source of talent.”
Leo said upwards of 150 companies will join any career fair on campus and the college has attracted major corporate partners to continue to expand its reach. He added that a College of Computing, a joint program between computer sciences and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, is also in the works. Leo added such a program will help more UGA students prepare for “the future of engineering.”
Up in Cobb County, Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic also restructured their tech-focused degree paths to help students better prepare for the workforce.
After the two institutions consolidated back in 2013, KSU now houses two different technology-focused academic units – the College of Computing and Software Engineering and the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, the second-largest engineering school in the state.
The College of Computing and Software Engineering graduated 800 students last year, and the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering had just over 5,000 enrolled students as of Fall 2021.
Sumanth Yenduri, Dean of the College of Computing and Software Engineering, Kennesaw State University, told Hypepotamus that “as a nation, we are not producing an adequate number of graduates to meet the job growth in computing. Most of our graduates stay in and around Atlanta after graduation. As the College has seen growth in enrollment, we strive to work with our local and regional industry to satisfy their recruiting needs.”
Ian Ferguson, Dean of the College of Engineering, said that the school has increased enrollment while doubling down on research opportunities and industry collaborations. The school has also added new degree programs at the undergrad and graduate levels, including a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary engineering.
To better meet the engineering and STEM-related job demands, other colleges across the state are now offering dual degree programs. Many, like the ones offered at Spelman and Agnes Scott with Georgia Tech, are designed to “combine the value of a liberal arts education” with an engineering degree.
The ability for the state to continue to attract new tech firms requires access to top tech talent. And it looks like universities across the state are stepping up to grow the tech pipeline.
Close to 17% of the 72,929 degrees awarded last year at public universities across the state were in computer science or engineering, according to data made available by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents. That number is up from 15% just two years ago.