Northeast State awarded USDA grant for tech training

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Northeast State a grant to develop a self-contained Mobile Advanced Manufacturing Virtual Simulator Lab for the College’s innovative training platforms for the department of Advanced Technologies.

Northeast State President Dr. Janice H. Gilliam accepted the Rural Business Enterprise grant from USDA representative Chuck Morris on May 29. The grant totals $36,750 with a $16,900 match in equipment purchases provided by the College.

“We are delighted the USDA awarded Northeast State this grant to enhance and expand the instructional opportunities we can provide to students across our service area,” said President Gilliam.

The mobile simulator lab enables transport of the College’s Welding Simulator, Robotic Training Station, and Automotive Paint Simulator to the College’s teaching sites around its five-county service area. The simulators represent the best of cutting-edge instruction for advanced technology student. The simulators provide efficient instruction by introducing students to basic technological concepts in first-year courses of welding, automotive body technology, and CNC machining.

(from left) Sam Rowell, Linda Calvert, Chuck Morris, and Dr. Janice Gilliam.
(from left) Sam Rowell, Linda Calvert, Chuck Morris, and Dr. Janice Gilliam.

Linda W. Calvert, executive director of the College’s Grant Development office, wrote the grant and submitted it to the USDA to purchase the trailer and related instructional materials. The office of Grant Development cultivates external funding and proposal development processes, and grants management technical assistance for the College programs.

“The Mobile Advanced Manufacturing Virtual Simulator Lab provides a valuable learning tool for students entering our regional workforce,” said Calvert. “This grant provides a new opportunity for Northeast State to educate students on diverse manufacturing careers and showcase virtual teaching models.”

Instructors use the simulators to teach Industrial Technology and Electrical Technology disciplines. Students use the simulator tools to learn first-hand experience of what it takes to complete the programs of study. The College realizes a significant financial savings using the simulators rather than more expensive raw materials used in advanced technology courses.

President Dr. Janice Gilliam formalizes acceptance of a USDA Rural Business Enterprise grant.
President Dr. Janice Gilliam formalizes acceptance of a USDA Rural Business Enterprise grant.

Manufacturing stands strong as a major industry in the Northeast Tennessee. According to the 2013 Tennessee Manufacturers Registrar, the region is home to one-third of the Tennessee’s manufacturing jobs and is the second largest industrial employment area in the state. Information compiled by the Alliance for Business and Training expects an increase in demand for industrial machinery mechanics, machinists, and maintenance personnel through the year 2020.

USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, community development, health, education, homeownership and affordable rental housing to improve the lives of people in rural areas and the economic health of rural communities. During the last four years the agency has assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 158 communities, investing more than $3.7 Billion into local economies through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants.

Northeast State stays proactive in training the regional workforce with on-campus learning programs. To ensure students keep pace with the demands of advanced manufacturing careers, Northeast State initiated the DACUM series to improve teaching methods for students by what skills were in highest demand by regional manufacturers and technology professionals. DACUM uses a storyboarding process detailing what a company’s current employee does in terms of duties and knowledge capital. Industry representative assess and adjust this information on critical and frequently performed tasks and the training needs of workers.

“Companies are looking for qualified workers with the requisite skills and knowledge needed to compete in a global economy,” said President Gilliam. “Northeast States stands ready to answer the challenge for our students and the region.”

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