School-Business Partnerships Pay Off for Maury County Workforce Development Efforts
Coordinated efforts from schools, businesses provide pathways for students for in-demand careers
With industry sectors such as health care and advanced manufacturing continuing to grow, Maury County’s educators, businesses and government leaders are working in tandem to create career pathways for students that will meet both the current and future workforce needs of employers.
Maury County Public Schools, for example, uses strategic community partnerships to better prepare students for college and careers.
Through the community-created Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness, developed in 2015, the school system updated its curriculum to include Advanced Placement coursework, dual enrollment opportunities, industry certification courses and work-based learning opportunities.
A partnership with Columbia State Community College created mechatronics programs at Central High School, Spring Hill High School and Mt. Pleasant High School, where students are working on their associate’s degree in industrial engineering.
“If we can create opportunities, with community involvement and alignment, then we have the ability to pre-work with students to give them the skills that they will need to be successful citizens upon graduation,” says Christopher Marczak, superintendent of Maury County Public Schools.
The school system also works closely with business partners to become actively involved in schools. Mt. Pleasant High School’s STEAM academy and innovation lab help students prepare for careers in tech and engineering. That effort is a partnership between Mt. Pleasant High School and the Parker Hannifin Innovation Center, an R&D center for filtration technology that is in Maury County.
Hard at Work
Columbia State Community College’s dual enrollment mechatronics program allows high school students to earn an associate degree while earning a high school diploma.
“We’ve also done work with public schools to implement academic academies where students can gain valuable real-world experience and engage in activities that add to their curriculum,” says Janet Smith, Columbia State president. “We’re bringing more or working more with the school systems to put in place programs that allow students, while they’re in high school to obtain career skills that lead into well paying jobs.”
The college also partners with the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance, community leaders and industry executives to identify workforce needs and review existing programs and curricula to ensure they meet the current needs of the business community.
“It’s critical; it’s integral; it’s compatible; it’s a partnership; it’s a collaborative process that services our students for their careers and our community for economic development,” she says.
Partnerships with the business community have fostered new programs that target in-demand industries, such as health care. The college’s medical lab technicians program was developed with start-up funds from Maury Regional Medical Center. An anesthesia technology program was formed at the request and involvement of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“Vanderbilt came to us and said, ‘You know, we really need trained anesthesia technologists.’ Most of the training was occurring in the hospital, and they saw a need to implement a program to train more people externally so that there was the stream of well-qualified individuals for the positions that are out in our community,” Smith says.
Tennessee’s Drive to 55 Initiative, which aims to have 55 percent of the state’s workforce have a college degree, has made a positive impact in Maury County. A $300,000 grant placed a Tennessee College of Applied Technology satellite campus in Mt. Pleasant. That campus will allow more Mt. Pleasant High School students to enroll in higher education programs and receive training.
The programs offered are considered “in demand” careers as identified by workforce area needs, says Kelli Kea-Carroll, president of TCAT – Hohenwald, which operates the Mt. Pleasnt location.
Many of the programs have been modified by adding additional areas of study for training. Job seekers are specifically encouraged to take advantage of the Drive to 55 tuition-free programs, Tennessee Promise and Tennessee ReConnect, which gives all Tennesseans an opportunity to attend a technical college or community college tuition free.
“The Tennessee College works with network of area employers and industries who serve on the institutional and program advisory committees, which provides a means of understanding local area industry. Maury County and Spring Hill area offer wonderful employment opportunities with a vast range of diverse businesses and industries,” says Kea-Carroll.