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Chattanooga Students are Prepared for the Future

Career readiness programs help prep Greater Chattanooga students for tomorrow's jobs.

By Teree Caruthers on August 30, 2022

Renderings of the PIE (Partnerships in Education) Center in the Greater Chattanooga, TN area.
Bradley County Schools

Across the 16-county, three-state Greater Chattanooga region, developing a workforce for tomorrow’s jobs remains a top priority. Schools, businesses and industries are collaborating on initiatives to provide students skills and keep the talent pipeline to local employers flowing.

With the help of community partners, Bradley County Schools developed the Partnerships in Industry and Education Innovation Center (PIE) near downtown Cleveland. As a result, high school students can earn college credit, participate in work-based learning experiences and participate in specialized training.

“With more and more industries struggling to find qualified employees and young talent, along with the large attrition rate of retirement age employees, Career and Technical Education (CTE) is more vital than ever,” says Arlette Robinson, CTE director, Bradley County Schools. 

Opening in all 2022, the PIE Center will offer students training and credentialing in such in-demand fields as mechatronics, welding, machining, advanced health sciences, electrical, plumbing and HVAC, as well as dual enrollment English, math and history courses. The center will also provide opportunities for work-based learning through its entities Coffee and PIE and the Recording Studio at PIE, as well as with businesses leasing space there.

The PIE Center will provide a comprehensive location where K-12, postsecondary, business/industry and nonprofit organizations are housed under one roof, Robinson says. And the center will include Connect@PIE, where nonprofit organizations can direct services to students, including social-emotional and career counseling.

Renderings of the PIE (Partnerships in Education) Center in the Greater Chattanooga, TN area.
Bradley County Schools

Climbing the Career Ladder 

In Catoosa County, Georgia, the public school system is working to open the From HERE to CAREER Academy to help prepare high school students for high-demand, high-paying jobs in the region. Scheduled to open in August 2023, the academy will offer students eight career pathways, ranging from law and justice, nursing and emergency management to architecture and construction, IT and cybersecurity.

“We are committed to upskilling and reskilling our manufacturing incumbent workers while working hand in hand with our schools to keep them informed about the new technologies as they train the emergent workforce.”

Denise Rice, Peak Performance

“These pathways will align with employers’ needs in our region because each pathway is planned by industry representatives that will employ our students. Additionally, if a new or existing business has a specific need, we have flexibility to adjust our curriculum,” says Marissa Brower, From HERE to CAREER Academy chief executive officer (CEO).

Academy students can earn up to 30 hours of college credit for free through dual enrollment with Georgia Northwestern Technical College or Dalton State College. Students will also earn industry-recognized technical college certificates to prepare them for careers.

Rendering of the construction workforce center in Chattanooga, TN.
Associated General Contractors of America East Tennessee

Training For Technology 

The Smart Factory Institute, operated by workforce training solutions company Peak Performance, partnered with the University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Industrial Organizational Psychology department to evaluate the impact of new smart technology on the manufacturing workforce.

The Chattanooga-based institute uses the data collected to develop training modules that help local manufacturers improve efficiency, identify labor gaps and determine the critical knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics needed to respond to changing work demands.

“Technology is constantly transforming these careers so that a career in manufacturing is a career of lifelong learning,” says Denise Rice, president and CEO of Peak Performance. “We are committed to upskilling and reskilling our manufacturing incumbent workers while working hand in hand with our schools to keep them informed about the new technologies as they train the emergent workforce.”

Rendering of a project build in the Chattanooga, TN area by Associated General Contractors of America East Tennessee
Associated General Contractors of America East Tennessee

Skills Players

The new Construction Career Center planned in Chattanooga will house training, career counseling and placement, and industry resources under one roof, bringing employers and industry closer to students in construction.

The center’s curriculum will be centered around teaching Howard and East Ridge High School students in Chattanooga the skills needed to build a skyscraper, from project management to electrical. Students can also earn college credit and construction credentials through Chattanooga State and spend a semester in a paid apprenticeship applying what they’ve learned.

We have a dire workforce crisis in construction. For every one person coming into the workforce, we have five people leaving,” says Leslie Gower, CEO of Associated General Contractors East Tennessee, which partners with the Construction Career Center.

“So we had to get really aggressive and ambitious in our plans to build our pipeline. A lot of that was just sharing awareness of the lucrative pathways that students can take towards these great careers.”

Downtown aerial shot over Chattanooga TN
Chattanooga Tourism Co.

Real Smart

Access to higher education options gives Greater Chattanooga an advantage:

  • University of Tennessee Chattanooga: Four-year university that offers 140 undergraduate majors and nearly 100 graduate programs
  • Cleveland State Community College: Two-year college that serves students in Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk counties
  • Chattanooga State Community College: Two-year college that houses about 10,000 students and boasts a 98% job-placement rate
  • Dalton State College: Four-year college that offers 18 baccalaureate and 22 associate degrees and many certificate programs
  • Georgia Northwestern Technical College: Technical college specializing in occupational education, skills training and workforce development
  • Northeast Alabama Community College: Encompasses an award-winning building construction technology program, among other accolades
  • Southern Adventist University: A private university operated by the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
  • Lee University: A private Christian university is known largely for the success of its vocal program

Q&A: Emily Lilley is Charting a Smart Course & Advocates for Charter Schools in Tennessee 

Headshot of Emily Lilley, who is a Leadership Chattanooga graduate, which is a program in the greater Chattanooga, TN area.

Emily Lilley
Leadership Chattanooga graduate

Since 2013, the Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC) has led critical work in advocacy, school support and policy on behalf of public charter schools across the state. TCSC is the state’s primary charter support organization and offers resources and support to help ensure public charter schools can meet their mission of providing high-quality educational opportunities for all students.

Emily Lilley is the organization’s vice president of external affairs and a Leadership Chattanooga graduate.

What role do charter schools play in the region’s workforce development efforts?

Public charter schools here in Chattanooga and across Tennessee are some of the tools our community utilizes as we all work together to ensure students growing up in our region have access to the excellent public education they need to develop the knowledge and critical thinking skills required to engage in the workforce and become thoughtful and engaged citizens.
Alongside traditional public schools, our area’s public charter schools offer students access to unique opportunities in outdoor education, STEAM models, single-gender education, Montessori learning and more, all as public school options that families can utilize to find the best fit for the unique needs and interests of their children.

How do charter schools prepare students for college and careers?

Charter schools are unique in that they are allowed the freedom and flexibility to be innovative in their approach to educating children while still being held accountable for advancing student achievement.
Many charter schools in our area offer unique opportunities, such as the Tennessee State Parks Environmental Institute at Ivy Academy, which offers four majors related to environmental science, resource management and other unique careers.

How did Leadership Chattanooga help equip you for your role with TCSC?

Leadership Chattanooga is a great experience for a number of reasons, but one of the best aspects of the program is the way it opens your eyes to how different agencies, business sectors and areas of interest and focus are interconnected in the city.
Meeting the people who are leading in so many areas of growth for the city and learning more about how Chattanooga works is a benefit for any professional.

If you’d like to learn more about the Greater Chattanooga area, check out the latest edition of Chattanooga Region Economic Development.

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