Leaders react to recession

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Establishing a training program to be sure workers are ready for modern factory jobs is the goal announced Monday when city, county and state leaders gathered in Lewisburg's Recreation Center.

Economic developers are to meet with industrialists to determine what skills are needed for upcoming jobs, according to Greg Lowe, the city's industrial recruiter. He introduced Motlow State Community College President MaryLou Apple who explained the plan.

Siemens Inc. of Germany developed the system of collaboration with business leaders so college-level training is available to people who want employment, or better jobs, Apple said.

"Industry puts heat on schools to teach skills" is a Wall Street Journal headline that Apple quoted to sum up the motive of community colleges.

"But what skills for what jobs?" Motlow's president asked. "We've got to know what you're aiming for."

Lowe announced his intention to organize consultation sessions with industrialists so when they have job openings, area residents will be trained and ready to fill the jobs.

Such a common sense approach could be at the Northfield Building that General Motors is renting in Spring Hill to an eight-county workforce alliance that has Lewisburg resident Tony Beyers as chairman. Apple confirmed the location is already being used for other courses not immediately associated with factory work.

Meanwhile, a glitch in the wording of a contract between the state supported alliance and GM has postponed work to separate the old Saturn administration building from the GM assembly plant, Beyers said. GM doesn't want the building, he said. To make it apart from the plant, utilities, roads and other aspects of the Northfield building must be made separate. That will cost money local workforce alliance leaders are reluctant to spend without an adjustment to the contract they have with GM.

Training and retraining GM workers at the Northfield building might be a result of implementation of the program discussed Monday in Lewisburg. It's dubbed Mechatronics.

Among the leaders - including city and county mayors, Lewisburg's Industrial Development Board, employees of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development were educators like Apple, Columbia State Community College President Janet Smith and CSCC Lewisburg Campus Administrator Elizabeth McDow - were Marshall County Schools' Spot Lowe Technology Center instructors Doug Adams and Danny Pickle.

They all gave appearances of supporting the new initiative and Pickle gave reasons for students and others to take advantage of the opportunities that are to be made available if the Mechatronics program is started here.

"If you do, you can make $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year," Pickle said. "We're training them to make more than we do."