BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Industry is a vital part of Greene County, providing both paychecks for local citizens and significant amounts of property tax revenue.
Both the employee paychecks and the taxes paid to local governments stimulate the Greene County economy, improve quality of life for many Greene Countians, and help provide vital public services.
In order to flourish, however, industries need qualified and capable workers of all skill sets.
Preparing Greeneville and Greene County students to fill these needed and well-paying local positions has become a major focus for industry leaders and educational institutions alike, with the Greene County Partnership often serving as a link between the two.
As a result of these partnerships, a Workforce Education Committee was formed.
Greene County Career and Technical Education Supervisor Wayland Seaton chaired the committee, which also included representatives of the local school systems Walters State Community College, the Greene County Partnership, the Greene Technology Center and industries such as John Deere Power Products and Angus-Palm.
The committee then developed five "pathways" designed to provide a structured means for a student to decide on a career direction -- and then to gain the necessary education to reach the specific job and earning level the student desires.
The pathways are health science, manufacturing, transportation, business/finance, and education/professional services.
These five pathways represent 95 percent of the jobs expected to exist within the next five years in East Tennessee, based on data from the Greene County Partnership.
For a student, the pathways begin right after high school graduation and can lead him or her straight into a job, or to certification training that could qualify the student for a job, or to some level of post-secondary degree.
The pathways will play a critical role in the county school system, where middle school students will now begin focusing on areas in which they are interested and in which they have certain skill sets.
He or she will then select a pathway to follow through high school, where guidance counselors and teachers will aid students in selecting the appropriate classes for the pathway they have chosen.
Of the five pathways, manufacturing is doubtless the most significant for local industry.
The pinwheel-shaped manufacturing pathway guides students around the various industrial and occupational job options in the area, educational opportunities relating to the jobs, and varying pay scales for different positions.
Educational options include high-school preparation, on-the-job training, post-secondary training, an associate's degree, and a bachelor of arts degree.
Manufacturing job opportunities mentioned in the pathway material include:
* Industrial Maintenance, with three occupations ranging from $34,000 to $54,000 per year;
* Machine Tool, with three occupations ranging from $35,000 to $50,000 per year;
* Welding, with three occupations ranging from $22,000 to $50,000 per year;
* Industrial Electricity, with three occupations ranging from $35,000 to $62,000 per year; and,
* Computer Information Technology, with three occupations ranging from $21,000 to $38,000 per year.
The list of local employers includes DTR, Huf, John Deere Power Products, Angus-Palm, Parker, Landair Transport, Inc., Walmart, American Greetings and Oldcastle.
The pathway material encourages students to consider scholarship, grant, loan and work/study opportunities and lists vital "soft skills" important for holding industrial jobs.
Basic skills include math, reading, communication, and mechanical and spatial relationships.
DR. KIRK'S STATEMENT
When the school system approved the career pathways for use in curriculum development, County Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk released a statement embracing the iniative.
"Greene County Schools' work on career pathways began with the release of a report issued by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, 'Pathways to Prosperity,' in February 2011," Kirk explained in her statement.
"Tennessee's governor at that time, Phil Bredesen, stated about this report: 'This thoughtful paper makes a strong case for the development of multiple pathways leading from high school to post-secondary education or career training.
"'Those of us who support a single-track system through high school need to carefully consider the questions raised in this proactive report.'"
Kirk explained further that the challenge is the increasing dependence on post-secondary education.
She included what she called a "startling fact" that highlights this change:
"Twenty-seven percent of people with post-secondary licenses or certificates -- credentials short of an associate's degree -- earn more than the average bachelor's degree recipient.
"Combine these facts with this one: so-called 'blue collar' fields will provide nearly 8 million job openings, 2.7 million of which will require a post-secondary credential -- and you have a compelling call to action for educators."
Although the city school system already had "focus areas" in place that act in a manner similar to the pathways, Greeneville Director of Schools Dr. Linda Stroud said she is very pleased with the development of the pathways.
Stroud said that middle and high school guidance counselors will utilize the pathways in guiding students and families.
"The pathways are great work, and we certainly support them," she said.
"I am extremely pleased with the work that Mr. Jerry Ayers and the entire staff at the Greene Technology Center have accomplished in order to increase workforce development initiatives," Stroud said.
"Rebranding the previous 'Center for Technology' to the new 'Greene Technology Center' better informs our community of the focus and opportunities available.
"Most importantly, the new partnership with the Tennessee Technology Center (in Morristown) will afford our students certifications in Machine Tool, Welding, Industrial Electricity, and Industrial Maintenance," Stroud added.
"We fully support all programs for career-based learning and certifications that benefit both the students and the manufacturing companies in our entire community.
"We look forward to further expanding additional certification programs in the future," Stroud said.
TECH CENTER'S ROLE
Ayers, director of the Greene Technology Center, spoke about the pathways at a luncheon to celebrate recent partnerships formed between the Greene Technology Center (GTC) and the Tennessee Technology Center (TTC) in Morristown.
"We continue to upgrade our programs to fit the needs of today's workforce," Ayers said.
"With the tremendous leadership of Wayland Seaton, we are developing multiple pathways for students to gain certifications and to prepare students for post-secondary opportunities.
"The pathways work along with the programs at GTC and dovetail perfectly to align with the state's 'College and Career Ready' initiative."
Among the programs the pathway may guide students to study at the center are Industrial Electricity, Machine Tool Technology/CNC, and Welding.
Walters State Community College also has a number of programs that serve local industries and aid toward training students to fill industrial positions.
The community college offers an Associate of Applied Science in Manufacturing, and technical certificates in Manufacturing, Industrial Automation, and Operations Management and Quality.
Since 2003-2004, Walters State has also partnered with the GTC to provide all the adult continuing education offerings at the center, including Welding, Computer Numerical Controllers (CNC) training, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) training, electrical training, machine-tooling, shop math, blueprint-reading and more.
"What's been most successful in the past four years has probably been our welding training," said Dr. Anita Ricker, assistant dean for Community Education.
Upcoming certification training will even meet the American Welding Society's standards, Ricker said, an achievement which could open the door for welders to major corporate and government contracts.
There are also short-term, customized courses designed to focus specifically on skills gaps.
The community college provides these courses to industries both for incoming workers and as skills upgrades for experienced employees, Ricker explained.