Community colleges team-up to train workers - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Community colleges team-up to train workers

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Two states, two community colleges with a common purpose:  putting more qualified workers into the workforce.

Dr. Nathan Essex, President of Southwest Community College and Dr. Glen Fenter, President of Mid-South Community College have committed to creating the Mid-South Manufacturing/Distribution Training and Education Institute, a collaboration that will offer students at both institutions more options by providing  the specific training and skills businesses are looking for in their workers.

"Our model basically asks what do you need as an employer to make money in terms of a workforce and then, we work backward from that employer's desire to create an education model that is strategically developed to grow stronger economies," says Fenter.

MORE: Southwest Tennessee Community College
MORE: Mid-South Community College

Both colleges already have manufacturing and industrial training programs, but the new "Harvard Tech" as they're calling it, will give students more "hands-on" training that can put them immediately to work.

Essex says, "The new component would be the additional training on the specific equipment that relates to a particular industry."

Fenter says there are several options for those interested in the program.

"Whether it is a machinist or a welder or process control technician, or someone who specializes in logistics or distribution, there is a broad range," he says.

The colleges will share faculty, facilities and equipment resources.
Some businesses in the Mid-South will help in providing some of the training equipment.

Dexter Muller, Vice President of Community Development with the Greater Memphis Chamber says this new training program could attract new businesses to the Memphis-area, meaning more job opportunities for Mid Southerners.

"The workforce will be able to tell new companies and sight selection consultants that we have a pipeline of workers coming out,"  Muller says.

But "Harvard Tech" won't just be helping new businesses in the Memphis-area.  

Muller adds, "We have companies today that know in 10 years, 50% of their workforce will be eligible to retire, so they need to be able to backfill employees they currently have today."

Dr. Essex says of the students at Southwest who graduate, 97% of them are employed within 90 days of graduation and companies are constantly asking for more skilled workers.

"So, the demand is there, our challenge in the past has been that we have not been able to meet the demands of business and industry.  We aren't doing that currently, but we're scratching the surface right now, "  says Essex.

Business leaders will be instrumental in helping the colleges construct advanced laboratories that provide students with "real-world" workplace experience, experience that could be life-changing by training, in some cases, for just one semester.

"These are no longer blue collar jobs.  They are career opportunities that take traditionally blue-collar skills because of their demand and turn them into white collar middle class opportunities,"  says Fenter.

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