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Haslam: Improving Higher Ed Access a 2014 Priority

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that while he hasn’t finalized the particulars of his legislative agenda for 2014, higher education will clearly be a focus.

Haslam spent Tuesday in Murfreesboro talking up his administration’s efforts to encourage more Tennesseans to pursue an education beyond high school, emphasizing the importance of “higher ed” to economic development for the state.

“Government has a real role. One of the roles is to prepare the workers for the workforce,” Haslam told reporters after his announcement of an equipment grant of $625,007 to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro.

The grant is a portion of the $16.5 million in equipment and technology grants approved by the General Assembly last session for “workforce development programs” at Tennessee higher education institutions, a part of the governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative to “increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials,” according to a press release.

Haslam said he views these grants as a “great investment” for the state that “will mean even more jobs coming to Tennessee in the future.”

Although the general unemployment in the state is still fairly high, the governor said “we have an impending shortage of skilled laborers in Middle Tennessee.”

In order to address that, and entice more businesses to relocate to the state, Haslam said that one of his administration’s top legislative priorities in the upcoming session will be improving access to higher education. “I think you’ll see a real focus on higher ed; both making certain that we have the job preparation programs, as well as we have to have a way that we can encourage more Tennesseans to attend school after high school, and so I think you’ll see some things around making that more affordable as well,” Haslam said after the grant announcement.

The governor also touted the importance of an increased number of degree-holding Tennesseans as necessary to continue job creation and economic development across the state at a luncheon event with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce later that day.

The governor went down the list of programs enacted and laws passed in the name of enhancing the state’s economic status, and praised efforts to improve education – both K-12 and post-secondary – along with recently passed tax cuts, workers comp and civil service reform and his administration’s push for more exports.

Although the state’s business climate is one generally approved of by companies looking to relocate, a common complaint has been that Tennessee lacks in workforce development and has consistently ranked somewhere in the “40s” in education nationwide, Haslam said.

But the state has been working to improve that statistic, and with the release of the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress scores last month showing Tennessee as the “fastest growing state in the country,” it appears that the educational improvement efforts have been paying off, the governor said at the luncheon.

“It’s a really big deal when the commissioner of education in New York says, ‘If we work really hard we can be like Tennessee,’” Haslam said. “That’s a big deal, and that hasn’t been said a lot.”

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Press Releases

Haslam Awards TCAT-Murfreesboro $625K Equipment Grant

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; December 3, 2013:

MURFREESBORO – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a grant of $625,007 to fund equipment needed at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro.

The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

“The purchase of this equipment for TCAT-Murfreesboro will allow the school to provide high-tech training to meet workforce needs in the Murfreesboro area,” Haslam said. “This will not only help train Tennesseans for skilled jobs but minimize the necessity for area employers to seek skilled workers from out of state.”

The grant for TCAT-Murfreesboro at the school’s Old Fort Campus will address needs for equipment for instruction in mechanical systems, electronics, industrial motor controls, hydraulics, pneumatics and wiring. The school will be able to purchase several pieces of high-tech training equipment.

The purchase will help align the school’s advanced manufacturing training programs with area industry. Graduation from the industrial maintenance program as well as the machine tool and HVAC programs prepare students for the workforce and provide up to 30 credit hours to transfer to a community college toward an Applied Associate Degree in General Technology.

“Currently only 32 percent of Tennesseans have certificates or degrees beyond high school, and studies show that by 2025, that number must be 55 percent to meet workforce demands,” Haslam said. “These workforce development grants help us directly meet workforce training needs.”

These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs. One of the most common themes Haslam heard was the lack of capacity and equipment at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges to meet job demand, so these grants are aimed at addressing those gaps.

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Press Releases

Haslam Announces Workforce Development Grant at TCAT-Jackson

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; Sept. 24, 2013:

JACKSON – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a $573,464 workforce development equipment grant for Jackson State Community College (JSCC) and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – Jackson to help meet the future workforce needs of area communities.

The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs. One of the most common themes he heard was the lack of capacity and equipment at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges to meet job demand, so these grants are aimed at addressing those gaps.

“Currently only 32 percent of Tennesseans have certificates or degrees beyond high school, and studies show that by 2025, that number must be 55 percent to meet workforce demands,” Haslam said. “We must have qualified Tennesseans to fill those positions, and these grants are going to have an immediate impact because these programs have high placement rates in fields that are looking to fill jobs now.”

Jackson State will receive $443,784 to fund needed equipment for its Advanced Maintenance Technician programs, providing the opportunity for students to learn different skills sets than are currently available. The community college has a strong relationship with Toyota and other area manufacturers and plans to establish a co-op for mechanically-inclined high school students.

The remainder of the grant, $129,680, will go to TCAT – Jackson for a mechatronics trainer for students in the Industrial Maintenance program and needed upgrades and additional welding equipment for its Advanced Manufacturing programs. Last year’s completion rate in the welding program was approximately 82 percent with placement in the field at 94 percent. Jackson State and TCAT-Jackson have signed articulation agreements to create a seamless transition for TCAT students to transfer into the JSCC Advanced Manufacturing program. Jackson State is also offering this articulation agreement with TCATs in McKenzie, Paris, Whiteville and Crump.

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Press Releases

TCAT-Dickson Receives Almost $700K Workforce Development Grant

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; Sept. 23, 2013:

DICKSON – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a $693,961 workforce development equipment grant for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – Dickson and its new Clarksville expansion site.

The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs. One of the most common themes he heard was the lack of capacity and equipment at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges to meet job demand, so these grants are aimed at addressing those gaps.

“Currently only 32 percent of Tennesseans have certificates or degrees beyond high school, and studies show that by 2025, that number must be 55 percent to meet workforce demands,” Haslam said. “We must have qualified Tennesseans to fill those positions, and these grants are going to have an immediate impact because these programs have high placement rates in fields that are looking to fill jobs now.”

The majority of the grant, $534,170, will go to both the Dickson and Clarksville locations to address the critical need for equipment in the Industrial Maintenance & Electricity Technology, Mechatronics, and Machine Tool Technology programs. The grant will allow the TCAT-Dickson to purchase training equipment for mechanical systems, electronics, industrial motor controls, hydraulics, pneumatics and wiring. Graduation from any one of these three programs prepares students for the workforce and provides up to 30 credit hours to transfer into a community college toward an Applied Associate Degree in General Technology.

The remaining $159,791 is for the TCAT-Dickson expansion site in Clarksville and equipping the school’s new welding/pipefitting and millwright programs to meet national accreditation standards. Completion of these programs provides a direct entry to the workforce and the ability to transfer 30 credit hours toward an applied associate degree. The equipment will help qualify program graduates in several different high-skill occupations.