History literally surrounds us, from our historic buildings to our squares and monuments.
In a town known for its historic buildings, stately oaks and squares with monuments, it's only natural that historic preservation would be big business.
It's against that backdrop that Savannah Technical College will launch an instructional program in Historic Preservation as part of its new Construction Management and Historic Preservation Skills Center - the first program of its kind at a Georgia technical college.
With funding from a $1.3M 3-year grant from the US Department of Labor through the President's Community-Based Job Training grant, the college is beginning to build the program, equip the lab and develop the curriculum. The college will develop 7 technical certificates of credit in critical construction disciplines including Concrete/Masonry, Carpentry, Basic Electrical, Basic Plumbing, Basic Air Conditioning, Green Building Technology and Historic Preservation and will also offer a diploma and associate degree in Construction Technology.
When the grant was announced last spring, College President C.B. Rathburn noted the special need for training and workforce development in the area saying, "This funding will allow us to address a critical workforce development need in our community. We will be uniquely equipped to support the construction industry with skilled workers in all areas. And, the focus on historic preservation allows us to meet a specific need in the industry."
Newly-hired Philadelphia native Stephen Hartley leads the program. "We have a living laboratory here in Savannah," he says. "People will be drawn to the program because of the city's reputation for history and preservation." And Hartley should know. He moved to Savannah to attend graduate school armed with a bachelor's degree in history from Coastal Carolina University and experience working on 33 historic sites. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in preservation from the Savannah College of Art & Design in 2005. Of his work Hartley says, "It is the connection to the past that help us understand why we do what we do and where we came from. Every building is a puzzle and each has its own story. My job is to put the pieces of the puzzle together to find that story and tell it."
When the program is fully developed, it will have certificate, diploma and associate degree options. Initially, the TCC will focus on preservation theory with the diploma and degree options involving more hands-on field and lab work. Graduates will be able to work on historic sites in a number of key areas including wiring, stained glass, masonry, plaster, guilding, ceramics and more.
Though the program is in its infancy, there has been tremendous interest because of the declining number of skilled craftsmen specializing in preservation. Hartley boasts of colleagues in the industry working abroad considering internship opportunities when the program is developed.
For students considering the program, Hartley has some words of inspirational advice. "You have to love history. If you don't love it, you're in the wrong line of work. It's important to study the building to see it for what it was and what it can be again.'