Northeast State has received a $150,000 grant to support advanced technology workforce training opportunities throughout Northeast Tennessee.
The funding is provided through a Walmart Foundation grant, which is managed by the American Association of Community Colleges. It is referred to as the JRWA Bridge Initiative, which stands for Job Ready, Willing, and Able. Northeast State was one of only 17 colleges across the United States to receive the award.
The colleges will focus on current and potential growth of jobs specific to their region. They will work closely with local businesses, economic development leaders, and area workforce systems to address the needs of the unemployed. The JRWA initiative aims to provide more than 5,000 unemployed adults with new skills, credentials, and jobs.
The three-year grant will be administered by the College Access Programs office at Northeast State. The initiative will recruit new students to Northeast State’s advanced technology programs in the identified sectors to assist underemployed/unemployed individuals.
Students will get help with admissions, financial aid, career guidance, and counseling. The program will also provide additional support to students currently enrolled in the identified advanced technology programs at Northeast State.
“The program will work with students to build their employability,” said Ashley Dickson, interim director of College Access Programs. “This means help with resume skills, interviewing skills, and finding internship and job shadowing opportunities.”
Dickson said the program will provide assistance for up to 350 people.
The initiative will focus on several advanced technology programs, such as welding, electrical, electromechanical, machine tool, manufacturing/engineering, mechanical technology, drafting, and chemical process operations.
Dickson said there is an ample supply of employers with demand for these skill sets in the region. The Tri-Cities, like many areas, is experiencing an aging workforce, which will result in increasing demands for middle-skill labor.
“The mission of the JRWA Bridge Initiative is to provide our area industries and businesses with a skilled workforce, as well as to decrease the unemployment rate in Northeast Tennessee,” Dickson said.
Middle-skill jobs, as defined by the National Skills Coalition, are those requiring postsecondary education below the baccalaureate level; they make up the largest part of America’s labor market. High-skill workers possess technical training and industry certification or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a manufacturing-related field. Northeast State’s Industrial Technology and Electrical Technology programs prepare high skill workers for middle-skill jobs that include Advanced Manufacturing occupations.
In addition, manufacturing is a major industry in the Northeast Tennessee region; the area provides one-third of the state’s manufacturing jobs in Tennessee. Recognized as the second largest industrial employment area in the state, it is home to Eastman Chemical Company, Domtar Paper, A.O. Smith Water Heaters, and other manufacturers.
Letters of support from local employers, submitted for the College’s Master Planning process, indicate a need for graduates from the following Northeast State Programs: Machine Tool, Manufacturing, Welding/Metal Fabrication, Combination Welding, Computer-Aided Drafting; Industrial Operations, and Machine Tool Operations. Wright Tool, Inc., A.O. Smith Water Products, Eastman Chemical, and Decanter Machine, Inc., through letters of support for other projects, have committed to support these programs and consider program completers for employment.