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TCAT plans new truck driving school at Phipps Bend campus

Jeff Bobo • Jan 27, 2020 at 5:30 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — A new truck driving school could be coming to the Tennessee College of Applied Science campus at Phipps Bend as early as this spring, while some other new TCAT programs are set to begin at Hawkins County high schools in the fall.

Jerry Young, who is president of the Phipps Bend TCAT's parent campus in Morristown, gave the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board a report Thursday on several new TCAT programs on the horizon both at the Phipps Bend campus and at the high schools.

Young said he has been in contact with a truck driver training company he worked with while he was at the Crossville TCAT campus that is interested in starting a program at the Hawkins County campus.

“Everything is set up out there,” Young told the IDB. “There would be a place for them to drive. The classroom is ready to go. His company has several contracts now in Kingsport, plus with the industrial park there, that might be a benefit to those industries as well as him.”

The only potential setback is that the TCAT begins the accreditation process in October, and he wouldn't be allowed to start a new program less than six months before that begins.

“That's going to slow me down,” Yound said. “We're going to try to get this truck driving school approved at the March (TCAT) board meeting, and maybe get some students enrolled quickly so I can beat that six month deadline.”

If the truck driving school isn’t up and running by May 1, it will have to wait until after the accreditation process is over.

Teaching soft skills in high school

Rebecca Baker, IDB coordinator, told the board Thursday she was contacted last week by one of the county's bigger industries to talk about the skills gaps they were experiencing in the industrial sector, particularly with recent high school graduates.

“There's a big skills gap from high school to work force,” Baker told the IDB. “A lot of it is lack of machinery skills, basic math skills, reading comprehension and computer program skills like Excel and Word and that sort of thing. But he did say the number one was soft skills.”

Soft skills generally include attendance, punctuality, attitude, work ethic and professionalism.

Baker said she and Young are working together to meet the needs of local industries and use some available state funding to address “soft skills” as well as other training gaps.

“What I call work ethics”

Baker will send a questionnaire to all county industries asking them to list the top 5 soft skill deficiencies they experience in their business, but Young said he can already guess what they'll be based on his discussions with area industries.

“We're trying to roll more programs into the high school to engage them while they're still in high school,” Young said. “Hopefully instead of just sending the high school kids there (to the Phipps Bend TCAT), we can move in and work within the high schools — and start developing some of these (soft skills) — what I call work ethics. Show up on time. Work while you're there. Stay off the cell phones. Be able to pass a drug test.”

Young added, “Not just teach them how to be an electrician. Teach them how to be a good worker electrician. Not just how to be a good maintenance man, but how do you be a good employee maintenance man.”

Hawkins benefits from Governor’s GIVE Grant

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recently visited the Morristown TCAT to award a $1 million GIVE (Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education) Grant, which will be used to launch some new TCAT programs in area high schools.

“That's going to put equipment into Hawkins County high schools,” Young said. “Precision measurement training. Some of them are going to be given hydraulics and pneumatics. … We're trying to get that equipment out by summer so that it will be available to your high school students by next fall and we'll have training in place.”

The Hawkins County TCAT has just over 100 students including dual enrollment high school students.

“We've seen an increase in dual enrollment students there, especially welding, industrial electricity and industrial maintenance,” Young said. “I've had to hire another part time instructor just to help with the high school. I think he had 10 high school students this morning, teaching them industrial wiring.”

More new programs at Phipps Bend

Hawkins County was awarded funding from the East Tennessee Workforce Development Board for additional TCAT training programs at the Phipps Bend TCAT campus to meet the needs of area industry.

“Right now it looks like we're probably going to have a hydraulics and pneumatics class,” Yound said. “That will be two separate classes. Quite a few (local industries) signed up for OSHA training for their employees. I think there was five or six industries out there that wanted to participate in that. Fork lift training — overall 60 people will receive that training. It will be paid for through the East Tennessee Workforce Development Board. This money runs out this year, but hopefully we'll see another pick up next year. I know the industries appreciate that.”

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