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Maury County Partnerships Advance Area Workforce

Read how business and education partnerships are preparing the local workforce for future fast-growing industries.

By Raven Petty on June 1, 2016

Columbia, TN
Columbia / Brian McCord

In the emerging industries of today, technical skills are crucial. That’s why Maury County is taking the lead in training the local workforce to meet the needs of present and future fast-growing industries.

One leader is the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance (SCTWA), an organization that focuses on workforce development in eight counties in Middle Tennessee. The alliance helps students achieve career goals, while working with businesses to fulfill workforce needs.

“In order to feed the pipeline and meet the needs of local industries, workforce leaders and facilities must stay abreast of changes and demands,” says Jan McKeel, SCTWA executive director. “It’s crucial to economic development to keep that linkage between companies and the pipeline.”

The SCTWA also works with The Northfield Workforce Development and Conference Center in Spring Hill. At the Northfield center, middle and high school students can enter dual-enrollment programs that provide college credits toward certifications and degrees. The center also partners with area colleges to offer hands-on training, programs and classes to current employees who wish to further their career and stay current with industry demands.

“Acquiring a high school diploma in today’s workforce is not enough,” McKeel says. “We work alongside area educational providers and employers to ensure the opportunities that are needed are available.”

Business & Population Growth Put Maury County On The Map

Strong Partnerships Build Success

Participating schools at Northfield include Columbia State Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology and Martin Methodist College.

Columbia State offers STEM-based programs at Northfield in health care, IT and manufacturing to help fulfill the STEM graduate shortage in computer information and advanced manufacturing industries. 

“In an effort to attract more students, we added more appealing courses, such as mobile apps development and robotics,” says Dearl Lampley, dean of science, technology and math at Columbia State. “Engineering and engineering technology programs are also more popular and have grown greatly over the past five years.”

Columbia State also partners with local companies specializing in agriscience, mechanical engineering, information systems and IT systems. These programs help students go from the classroom to the workplace after graduation.

“Industry alliances are the success story so far with our programs,” Lampley says. “Manufacturers, no matter the size, have shown interest and provided input in our program development.”

Other workforce training programs at Martin Methodist include business-to-business marketing, negotiations and conflict management, as well as company-specific supervisory training.

Exposure For All Ages

In the summer of 2015, the ASM Educational Foundation’s Teacher Boot Camp program at Northfield provided 26 Middle Tennessee teachers with STEM training. Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) and Tennessee’s Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) hosted the one-week camp, which focused on STEM knowledge and content about new technologies and materials.

Read How Maury County Makes Education A Priority

The Spring Hill GM Academy, held in the summer of 2015, welcomed 20 students to the manufacturing facility to learn the ins-and-outs of auto manufacturing and assembly line work. W.R. Grace and Company also hosts manufacturing camps at Northfield and at its Mt. Pleasant facility. At the 2015 Mt. Pleasant event, students had to run the business.

This hands-on experience helps students get a feel of what to expect when they enter the workforce, and teaches them to band together to solve problems, overcome obstacles, take leadership, and overcome failure and setbacks.

“The camps are powerful for participating companies as well because they have to prepare and teach the techniques,” says says Patrick Kieffaber, operations manager at W.R. Grace. “As they teach the techniques, they get stronger at applying them in their daily jobs.”

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