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Maury County Works to Align Education With the Workforce

Preparing students early on for the workforce is a top priority in Maury County.

By Val Beerbower on September 20, 2021

In Maury County, area businesses and organizations are pitching in to ensure our students are career-ready by the time they graduate.

In partnership with Boyette Strategic Advisors, the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance launched ALIGN Maury, an employer-centered workforce development and talent pipeline enhancement initiative that aimed to characterize the county’s workforce assets and labor market competitiveness.

Study Time

The ALIGN Maury initiative included gathering information about the quality and availability of the regional workforce through interviews with employers, educators and workforce partners as well as focus groups with high school students and job seekers.

Almost 50 individual stakeholders participated in those discussions, along with more than 1,100 stakeholders across Maury County who provided input through a series of online surveys. The study produced a number of key findings, such as:

  • Employers are generally very satisfied with workforce skills found in Maury County, with 70% of employers being satisfied or very satisfied with the employees they hire in the county.
  • Barriers to employment are limited in the region, with child care presenting the greatest challenge to employment for residents.
  • There are opportunities for better alignment of career and technical education courses at the high school level, particularly related to manufacturing and information technology.

With the study now complete, the chamber is in the results-and-implementation stage.

“For the schools of Mt. Pleasant, it aligns directly with our Courage to Create vision – STEAM education creates a holistic learning model, positioning and preparing our students to be producers, creators and entrepreneurs, not merely consumers of content.”

Dr. Ryan B. Jackson

Mt. Pleasant High School

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The STEM of Success

In addition to ALIGN Maury, Maury County Public Schools (MCPS) has also stepped up to better prepare students for their careers, including those pertaining to the local job market.

Mt. Pleasant High School (MPHS), for example, created a welding certification program.

Plus, MCPS recently reached a major achievement: Mt. Pleasant Elementary, Mt. Pleasant Middle School, Mt. Pleasant High School, Randolph Howell Elementary and Battle Creek Elementary earned the Tennessee STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) School Designation.

“For the schools of Mt. Pleasant, it aligns directly with our Courage to Create vision – STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education creates a holistic learning model, positioning and preparing our students to be producers, creators and entrepreneurs, not merely consumers of content,” says Dr. Ryan B. Jackson, executive principal of MPHS.

Jackson says “The Mount,” as the schools of Mt. Pleasant are colloquially referred to, is Tennessee’s first and only pre-K-12 STEAM campus, as designated by the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and Tennessee Department of Education.

“We spent the first three years of my principalship preparing our culture, curriculum and pedagogy for this journey,” he says. “The designation itself was a yearlong process, culminating in a site visit for all three schools. This is a five-year designation, and the campus received $30,000. Additionally, because MPHS is a STEM-designated high school, we are applying for the Innovative High School Models grant as a consortium with four other STEM-designated high schools throughout Tennessee to create a network of FabLabs. If selected, each school would receive $200,000 to procure equipment, training and facility enhancements.”

Local employers are taking notice and doing their part to help students, as well. Due to a welder labor shortage, MPHS partnered with Columbia-based BMC Metalworks, and thanks to a $10,000 donation from BMC, the school is expanding its on-campus welding program.

The American Welding Society further supported the initiative with a $25,000 grant that will help prepare the welding lab with a new ventilation system, welding booths, additional equipment, concrete partitions and inspirational artwork. The Mount not only uses its STEAM campus to propel students into desirable career fields, but it leverages student projects to benefit the local community.

“Our Tiny House project was a collaboration between our agriculture program, which also houses our welding pathway, and our construction program,” Jackson says. “Our splash pad project is a joint effort between Mt. Pleasant High School and the City of Mt. Pleasant. Our students researched, designed and gained approval from the city government and our local school board to have a splash pad built on our campus. This will be the city’s first public water park in over 30 years.”

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