Teachers and school counselors from all over the Lakeway Area are gathering this week for an externship program to learn about local industries and their workforce needs.
The Five Rivers Partnership for Future Ready Pathways is hosting educators from eight school systems at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Morristown and exposing them to the cutting edge technology of modern production environments.
Chris Edmonds, business and industry coordinator at TCAT Morristown, said the educators are being kept busy this week by visiting three different industries.
“The teachers are being immersed in manufacturing,” he said. “It’s a hands-on look at the opportunities that our industries have to offer. They’re also getting a really good education on the products being created here in the region. They’re going to be taking a deep dive into industries to see their products are made. They’ll also learn what skillsets are required to work there.”
Edmonds said there is a disconnect between secondary education and manufacturing that the FRP2 is seeking to resolve.
At the end of the week, teachers and counselors will be developing a lesson plan that will be used in the fall that will be centered around skillsets industries say they need.
Chuck Carter, Career and Technical Education Supervisor for Hamblen County Schools, said it is important for educators understand the career opportunities and high-paying jobs available in modern industries because of the influence they have with students. He said having firsthand knowledge of the industries was necessary to understand how to promote those opportunities.
“You have students that stay with teachers more hours in a day, in a lot of cases, than they can with their family members,” he said. “Who better to advise students on career decisions? It would be a lot easier to sell you a car that I’ve driven than for me to sell you one I just saw a picture of.”
Carter said Daniel Aldridge, CTE Coordinator for Hamblen County schools and liaison for the externship program, has been working hard to organize the schools for this week.
“He took it over and has really tied it into a very nice little box,” Carter said. “It’s a good opportunity for teachers. He had to coordinate with industries, the school systems and TCAT to get this all lined up. It’s a big undertaking. You’re dealing with 8 school systems.”
FRP2 is funded through a $1 million grant awarded to TCAT Morristown. Edmonds filed for and manages all aspects of the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education grant. The GIVE grant program is an initiative implemented by Governor Bill Lee that prioritizes learning opportunities in rural counties and enhances career and technical education statewide.
Three quarters of the grant provides CTE equipment to participating school systems, such as CNC machines, 3D printers, precision measuring devices and more. The remainder funds initiatives like the teacher externship program.
The FRP2 is comprised of school systems from Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins and Jefferson counties.