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High-tech Education Drives Maury County Workforce Development

Institutions in Maury County provide high-tech training for workers to develop specialized skills to keep the talent pipeline flowing for top industries.

By Phil Newman on June 4, 2015


It’s a high-tech world, and employers are seeking workers with specialized skills to handle jobs in a variety of industries, from health care to advanced manufacturing. Employers in Maury County are benefiting from the high-tech training regional institutions are offering for workers and industry-driven skills they are developing within the workforce to keep the talent pipeline flowing for top industries.

Industry-driven Education

A range of technical training is offered through area colleges at the Northfield Workforce Development and Conference Center for highly sought-after jobs in manufacturing, automotive production, industrial maintenance, customer service and health care and through the dual enrollment opportunities the center provides for local high school students. Northfield is used for training classes and as a conference center, and is leased for commercial space. The facility also offers a 100-seat theater, a 300-seat multipurpose room, two recording studios, a sound stage, a 10-bay automotive garage, a 250-seat cafeteria and a 22,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing lab area.

Three institutions – Columbia State Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) centers for Hohenwald and Pulaski – offer classes there in specialties such as Advanced Integrated Industrial Technology (AiiT), Automotive Technology, CNC Machining, Industrial Maintenance, Licensed Practical Nursing, EMS-Emergency Medical Technician, EMS-Paramedic, Phlebotomy and call center customer service.

Northfield will host a new culinary arts program, initially aimed at high school students and later expanding to post-secondary courses, scheduled to start in 2015 in the largest commercial kitchen south of Nashville, says Jan McKeel, executive director of the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance. The alliance works with both a regional workforce board and an advanced manufacturing skills panel made up of representatives of 18 local manufacturers to ensure the programs at Northfield line up with employers’ needs.

“With input from employers in the region, we are certainly producing a more skilled workforce by offering all these programs under one roof,” McKeel says.

High-tech Manufacturing & Health Care

Columbia State Community College‘s Advanced Integrated Industrial Technology (AiiT) program, also known as mechatronics, offers world-class training that provides students with the skills needed to work with complex pieces of equipment. Students attend online lectures and participate in labs at Northfield on their own schedule, allowing flexibility for employed students as they earn credits toward a mechatronics certificate and a two-year degree.

“Manufacturing has moved into an era of sophisticated computerized technology,” says Dearl Lampley, dean of the Science, Technology and Math Division. “It requires people who are highly skilled in working with complex synchronized pieces of equipment and can troubleshoot the equipment if anything goes wrong.”

Nurses and other health-care students at Columbia State have access to first-class learning as well. The nursing department, in partnership with Saint Thomas Health Regional Network, held a cardiac symposium at Northfield designed to prepare the soon-to-be registered nurses to care for heart attack patients and provide patient education during the acute and recovery periods for patients experiencing angina or myocardial infarction. Approximately 60 fourth-semester nursing students from the Columbia and Williamson County campuses attended the day-long event. Nursing students also have access to high-fidelity patient simulators for adults and children, which allow students to practice in a low-risk environment to hone their knowledge and skills.

“Simulators are becoming more important because the volume and variety of experiences we need to train enough students to meet the need is difficult to obtain live and in person,” says Kae B. Fleming, dean of the Health Sciences department.

The respiratory therapy care program also invests in the latest devices so students can be up-to-date with current technology in hospitals, Fleming adds.

In nearby Pulaski, Martin Methodist College is also merging education with real-world experience. The college has partnered with NPC International – the world’s largest Pizza Hut franchisee, with 29,000 employees – to offer incentives for its employees to pursue a degree through its e-learning program. Education gained through NPC’s management development program will count for work-life credits, which can accelerate the normal four-year degree completion. The school also launched an MBA program in 2014, which will use a mix of classroom and online learning experience to train students.

Learn more about workforce partnerships in Maury County, TN.

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