West students get Tuff experience

Posted on Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 10:59 pm


Hamblen County high schoolers Matthew McDonald and Anthony Chapman, in blue shirts, participated in a seven-week internship at Tuff Torq in Morristown that ended with a reception at the company on July 25, attended by their families, local educators and community leaders.

Two Hamblen County students who participated in a seven-week internship at Tuff Torq garnered community-wide interest during a company reception held on their last day of work, July 25.

Anthony Chapman and Matthew McDonald, seniors at Morristown-Hamblen High School West, discussed their experiences with real-time technology during a breakfast hosted by Tuff Torq management.

“I got some education on how everything works together in a plant setting,” McDonald said. “I got to see how the real world works, including an earlier schedule.”

The students reported to work at 6:30 a.m. daily and rotated through the assembly, machining, inventory, maintenance, testing, quality lab and research and development departments.

“It gave me a chance to see what the actual engineering environment is inside a factory,” Chapman said. “I got to experience getting up early and seeing the harder side of manufacturing, the machining and assembly, where there is more labor.”

Chapman and McDonald were chosen out of the electronic-mechanical program shared by both high schools and taught by Daniel Aldridge at West. Their in-school aptitudes and skills were matched with the industrial environment at Tuff Torq. The internship provided both young men with their first opportunity to put on a pair of steel-toe boots.

Invited guests to Friday’s reception included representatives of Hamblen County Schools, Walters State Community College, the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce, the Morristown Industrial Development Board, along with Morristown Mayor Danny Thomas, Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain and the students’ families.

As part of its power point presentation, Tuff Torq revealed the purpose of the internship was to provide real work experience in a manufacturing setting, allow students to work a ‘real’ full time schedule and understand how different skill sets work together in the work environment.

The internship was a first for the company. Team Technologies and Colortech also participated in the program for the first time in 2014. Howmet Alcoa has done so for several years.

A quick-fire roundtable session after the presentation indicated a consensus among guests that high school student internships are crucial to Hamblen County workforce development.

“This gives our students the opportunity to see our local businesses’ and industries’ needs and give them the opportunities to make decisions for their future,” Director of Hamblen County Schools Dale Lynch said.

West High Principal Dr. Jeff Moorhouse added that students can see how their academic skills are applied in the workforce setting.

“They extend their learning environment,” Mike Watson said. He serves as the Career and Technical Education supervisor for Hamblen County Schools and has coordinated both the student internships and teacher externships with local manufacturers.

Dr. Brenda Dean, assistant director of schools, said “They see how everyday learning in school applies to the real world. It’s an opportunity to see the transference from theory to application, to see science become technology.”

2014 Morristown Chamber Chairman Roni Snyder said she, along with a team of community stakeholders, is working on several projects to support workforce development.

“To me it’s a point of pride,” Snyder said. “We’ve worked so hard to bring these businesses and industries here. Now, we have to educate not only our students but our citizens on the industry that is here and the power it has globally. It has a huge impact.”

Watson said, “And for this business, it now has two opportunities that it may pick up later.”

Chapman hopes to attend Walters State Community College, then East Tennesse State University with the idea of pursuing an engineering degree and possibly returning to the Lakeway Area to work in manufacturing.

McDonald has not yet decided on a career path, although the learning experience has made him decide that he needs further education to pursue his dream.

“It’s been an education for everyone involved,” R. Jack Fishman, chairman of the Morristown Industrial Development Board, said.

Tuff Torq payroll administrator Amanda Simerly indicated the internship was a win-win for the company.

“We are always looking for local qualified candidates, and we are interested in investing in Morristown’s engineering workforce,” she said.

“We hoped that this would spark interest in our students to come back once they get that degree. This will also help the company learn what information we can give to the school system and Walters State about our needs on the advanced manufacturing level.

“Our company wants to be invested in the school system, the chamber and our industrial partners,” she said.

“Our plan is to continue to grow the program,” Lynch said.

Moorhouse informed the group that two graduating seniors who interned through the industrial maintenance program at Team Technologies have been hired as full time employees.

“This program develops understanding about the careers and jobs available within these buildings we drive past every day,” Dean said.

“To give someone the ability to swim, you’ve got to put them in the water,” Watson said.

Industries who are interested in participating in the internship program should call Watson at the Hamblen County Board of Education offices: 423-581-3084.

-From Staff Reports

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