When business in Maury County talks, higher education listens. This is especially true at Columbia State Community College, where leaders are focused on developing talent to serve the fastest-growing industries across the area.
Columbia State's emphasis on partnering with local businesses to create viable career pathways for students is just one reason the college received the 2013 Tennessee Workforce Innovation Award.
“Knowing how fast things change, a priority of our college is to be involved with our community workforce industries and ensure that our curriculum aligns with their needs,” says Columbia State president Dr. Janet F. Smith.
Career ladders in demand at the college include a Bachelor of Nursing degree. This unique program allows RNs to complete general education coursework at Columbia State, with a year of advanced nursing coursework taken online through Middle Tennessee State University and clinical experience completed at Maury Regional Medical Center.
Columbia State also offers health science training programs for displaced workers. It just graduated its first class in phlebotomy, with graduates specializing in EKG/ECG technician and medical informatics fields soon to follow. The college is also becoming known for its one-year film production training program, which has teamed with the production crew of NBC's regionally filmed show Nashville to provide students with behind-the-scenes experience and employment opportunities.
“This program is the only one in a public college in Tennessee,” Smith says. “All students who complete it can find work immediately on a film crew.”
Tech Training at Northfield
To boost skills for growth sectors such as manufacturing and health care, the Northfield Workforce Development and Conference Center has partnered with Columbia State Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology centers at Hohenwald and Pulaski to offer specialized training in these areas.
“We are providing classroom access for people who wouldn’t drive to Pulaski, Hohenwald or Columbia State,” says Tom Brewer, managing director of Northfield. “We train only for emerging jobs based on jobs forecasting models.”
Columbia State courses at the center currently include EMT, EMT-Paramedic and Advanced Integrated Industrial Technology, while the Tennessee Tech Center at Pulaski is offering Computer Numeric Control and phlebotomy. Northfield classes available through the College of Applied Technology Hohenwald include LPN, automotive tech and industrial maintenance.
“Of 260 students, we have 30 high school students in dual enrollment who come each afternoon to take the same classes as our adult students,” Brewer says.
Collaborating With Companies
Companies like TNC Machining and others offer internship programs at Northfield.
“Part of the job of every one of our instructors is to find internships for their students so they can move right into a job at a company,” Brewer says.
Columbia State has also forged close ties with local firms such as GM, Smelter Services, Graf Tech and Swarco to get students on a fast track for jobs.
“Our tech courses should relate to the workforce and industries around us,” Smith says. “We have various programs in which we have involved businesses in the development or revisions of curriculum or assistance with overall programs. Engagement and interaction of business and industry is important to us.”
The same philosophy applies at nearby Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, which recently debuted an MBA program in response to local demand from employers.
“Several industries in this region have a need for management employees who want to live in rural areas, so this new program will address that concern,” says Dr. James Murrell, vice president of academic affairs. “Some companies here also need engineers who can move up the corporate structure, and they must have MBAs to qualify them for these management positions.”
To ensure the MBA degree dovetails with these needs, Martin Methodist College has asked a group of regional business leaders to consult on the program.
“We will discuss what they are looking for in terms of management employees, so we can tailor the curriculum,” Murrell says. “Our desire is not to make this just a classroom program; we want it to interact with businesses and industry in this region.”