Workforce Education programs are in high demand in Northeast Tennessee—maybe the busiest it’s ever been according to directors and spokespersons for workforce programs at Northeast State, ETSU, Tennessee Tech and Milligan College.
Area workers have returned to school in large numbers during the recession—enrollment is up 15% at Northeast State and 10% at ETSU. Also, surprisingly, there is a high level of area employers requesting customized employee training from education institutions. Training is often paid for by employers.
“One of the strongest assets employers have in Northeast Tennessee is the abundant and excellent workforce education in this region. There are at least 5 colleges, a university and technical institutions,” said Ruth Roberts, Director of Existing Industry Retention for the EDB of Johnson City and Washington County.
“The demand from local business and industry for training employees is high as I’ve ever seen it. Employers are building bench strength for the future of their organizations,” said Cindy Tauscher, Director Training Specialist of the Institute for Business and Industry Services and Continuing Education at Northeast State Technical Community College.
The institute supports economic development through workforce education training and services providing:
Incumbent Worker Training provides open enrollment programs coordinated with area business and industry and through customized training for specific organizations;
Apprenticeship Training is developed with the Dept. of Technical Education and area employers to meet specific training requirements of the employer. It is coordinated through the Technical Education Division to meet the educational portion of a company's Dept. of Labor approved apprenticeship program;
Associate Degrees and Certificates are offered to prepare students to enter the workforce or to pursue four-year degrees at area colleges;
Co-op and Internships Programs assist business and industry by placing students in co-op internship positions and identifying job candidates;
Continuing Education courses provide professional advancement through open enrollment and online.
“Training requests from area employers includes everything from NEPA-70E electrical safety certification to Lean Manufacturing (mistake-proofing your operation), specific manufacturing processes, to Non-Profit Certification programs for personnel in partnership with the United Way agencies in Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City,” said Tauscher. “In the area of professional development requests are for Human Resources, Business Management, Marketing and leadership training such as Supervisory Leadership certification,” said Tauscher. New areas of training are constantly developing. Northeast State is focusing on offering training in Health Informatics this fall to assist health related organizations in the implementation of electronic health records.
“The workplace is more technically sophisticated than ever. Lifelong learning is absolutely required by all business and industry these days because the workforce must be better qualified than ever,” said Tauscher. Working closely with area employers, Dr. Gilliam directed our efforts on employers through focus groups, input from EDBs, Chambers and surveys. A major outcome from the input of these orgainzations is the initiative to develop a regional training plan for the strong manufacturing base we have. To get the information needed for this plan, a Manufacturing Survey is on the homepage of the Northeast State website at www.northeaststate.edu
Northeast State Community College is a public comprehensive community college with technical education and college transfer programs. The school strives to tailor its programs and services to meet the special needs of a diverse student body that numbers more than 6,200.
The college offers associate degrees in more than 50 programs of study, which can be transferred to a number of local and regional four-year colleges and universities. The school also offers associate of applied science degrees in more than 30 programs of study, such as business management, nursing, computer science, criminal justice, and office administration technology that prepare students for immediate entry into the workplace. In addition, Northeast State offers academic and technical certificates in more than a dozen areas of study.
A large selection of programs in continuing education and professional development courses are also offered. These programs help students update and hone work skills and aid companies with workforce development.
Northeast State offers courses at its main campus in Blountville and at teaching sites in Elizabethton, Gray, and Kingsport. Classes are available during the day or night, and weekends. In addition, they offer a variety of online and alternative delivery courses. For more information, call 800.836.7822 or visit www.northeaststate.edu.
“Northeast State focuses on providing entry level college education for high school graduates and meeting the workforce education needs of area employers. Our instructors and professors at Northeast State are here to teach. They are not here to do research or other pursuits. The focus is students and employability,” said Marketing Director Bob Carpenter. “The many certificate programs in medical technology and office administration offered, directly lead to jobs. Often these certified graduates have jobs before they graduate and many go onto four-year colleges and universities.” said Carpenter.
The Fast Track is an example of educating for employment. Several years ago employers at Eastman, NFS and other companies came to Northeast State and the EDB concerned about a skills gap many high school graduates had that blocked their employability with area industry. Out of this meeting of the minds the Fast Track concept was born.
“The idea is to start working with 11th graders in high school to strengthen skills and provide the opportunity for them as high school seniors to take college courses at Northeast State for high school and college credit. Students attend spring semester classes five days per week at Northeast State and get ready for the workforce ASAP with two-year degrees and/or prepare to transfer to four-year colleges,” said Gary Lee, Director of High School Transition Programs.
“There is still a strong industrial base in Northeast Tennessee and companies want workers with skill sets in areas such as chemistry, electro-mechanical, machine tool, and welding and health professional education. There is a strong market in this region for these skill sets and the salaries are competitive with many occupations requiring 4 year degrees.”
To qualify for the program, students must have minimal ACT scores of 19 English, 19 Reading and 19 in Math where a prerequisite. High school juniors that have subscores not meeting the requirements may take remedial coursework to improve ACT scores, or they may take the COMPASS to challenge low ACT scores and become college ready.
The program is grant funded through the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Alliance for Business and Industry serves as the fiscal agent. Tuition and books are provided at no cost to the student. The goal is for the students to get a two-year degree and have the skill sets needed by local industries.
Since 2006 when the program made its debut, 173 students have participated in the program and many are employed by Eastman, American Water Heater and other leading employers in the area.