Marshall County to benefit from workforce grant

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

By Karen Hall

Editor

Last Thursday local officials were excited to hear the results of Gov. Bill Haslam's Labor Education Alignment Program competition -- the grant proposal Marshall County and Lewisburg participated in was one of 12 winners, out of almost 30 competitors. A total of $970,000 was awarded to the plan put together by the South Central Tennessee Development District, called "Filling gaps between industry and employees with manufacturing technology."

The LEAP is a state effort focused on increasing opportunities for Tennesseans to obtain a certificate or degree beyond high school that is aligned with the needs of the workforce in their communities. LEAP winners are located all over the state, from the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce to the Smoky Mountain Area Workforce Board.

"It will bring an Industrial Maintenance (plus other industrial-related training) to the building (near) the Square to be operated by TCAT-Shelbyville," explained Lewisburg's Director of Economic Development Greg Lowe. "It will create one classroom and one lab of training machinery. The same will be done in Bedford County, Lincoln County, and Franklin County -- one classroom and one lab. This will mean industrial employers will be able to send employees for training here in Lewisburg and others needing to upgrade their industrial training will be able to get training here in Lewisburg. The goal is to grow this program and provide even more industrial-related training here in Lewisburg."

The grant proposal details the need for an expanded industrial maintenance program in the area. This fall, Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Shelbyville had 144 students on the waiting list for their current industrial maintenance program which is running full-time day programs in Shelbyville, Winchester and Fayetteville, and a part-time evening program in Shelbyville as well. Expanding the program will allow at least 80 more students to participate in the 20-month course of study.

Those who successfully complete the program receive the industry-recognized Industrial Maintenance Technician Diploma and certifications for training in PLCs (programmable logic controllers).

Not only are there students eager to learn in the four-county area, there are industries ready to hire them when they graduate.

"Tennessee's Business" a publication by the Business and Economic Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University states, "There are literally thousands of jobs available in the manufacturing and industrial sectors" and a "particular demand for skilled maintenance workers."

According to Jobs4Tn.gov, in this region graduates of an Industrial Maintenance program earn an average of $30,563 in entry-level jobs, rising to an average of $53,419 for those with experience.

The Industrial Maintenance program at TCAT-Shelbyville currently has partnerships with Nissan and Calsonic, as well as other industries, and over 40 companies have benefited from trained completers of the IM program.

According to the grant proposal, Industrial Maintenance training will begin at all four locations in September 2015, with graduation for the first batch of 80 students (20 from each location) in April 2017.

The project will be directed by Jerry Mansfield, executive director of SCTDD, and Ivan Jones, director of TCAT-Shelbyville, overseen by a steering committee with members to be drawn from local industries.

A key component to the success of the program will be the purchase of high-tech training equipment which is in line with local labor-market needs. The equipment will be used to instruct and train through hands-on project-based activities. The purchase of training equipment is the largest part of the program's budget.

Local matching funds for the grant come from CKNA, Berry Plastics, and Nichirin; Lewisburg's Industrial Development Board; Marshall, Franklin and Lincoln counties; and the SCTDD.

All four county mayors will be involved in the project, and so will the directors of schools.

Beyond the 24-month funding period, TCAT-Shelbyville will continue the program at all four county locations, with operational costs covered by tuition and state appropriations.