Special to the State Gazette
December 19, 2014

A regional workforce collaborative was chosen to receive $850,000 in grant funds under the state’s new Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) funded by a $10 million appropriation in the 2014-15 state budget through legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). Dyersburg State Community College and area Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology in conjunction with the Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board received $850,000 for a Certified Production Technician (CPT) Pathway to an Advanced Manufacturing initiative. This proposal allows for post-secondary institutions to partner with secondary schools and employers to increase Advanced Manufacturing credentials in the 11-county workforce area.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for West Tennessee to provide a skilled workforce and opportunities for Tennesseans to work, earn and learn,” said Norris. “These grants mean business, and the state of Tennessee supports and appreciates these initiatives.”

Participating post-secondary institutions are: Dyersburg State Community College (including the Gibson County Center and Jimmy Naifeh Center at Tipton County; and the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology in Covington, Ripley (including Bells campus), Newbern (including Union City campus), Jackson, McKenzie, and Paris.

Dr. Karen Bowyer, president of Dyersburg State Community College, commented, “We are excited about the opportunity to expand the Certified Production Technician curriculum to other schools in our service area.

Unilever partners with the Tipton County School System to offer paid internships to students successfully earning CPT certificates at DSCC.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for young people interested in preparing for the growing career area of Advanced Manufacturing,” Tennessee College of Applied Technology Director Donna Hastings adds. “The CPT program provides an introduction to manufacturing principles to students starting their junior year. These classes can be taken on-line and provide flexibility in instruction for our high schools. As more students earn certification, I look to see a great impact on the level of interest in industrial occupations, which will provide a larger and more qualified labor pool for manufacturing employers.”

Secondary schools in the counties of Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Lauderdale, Obion, Tipton and Weakley will have the opportunity to add the CPT curriculum to their course offerings. The Manufacturing Skills Standard Council curriculum consists of four standard manufacturing modules that culminate in the accumulation of five certifications: Safety, Quality, Processes and Production, Maintenance Awareness and a CPT certificate. Through certification, individuals demonstrate mastery of the core competencies of manufacturing production.

Dennis Stokes, Principal of the Carroll County Technical Center, said, “We are pleased that we have an opportunity to offer CPT classes to our students. We think it is important to provide educational opportunities that fit employers’ needs and helps our graduates enter into the workforce.”

“The CPT Pathway to Advanced Manufacturing project is modeled after existing best practices throughout the state where employer demand has driven the creation of postsecondary training in Advanced Manufacturing,” adds Margaret Prater, vice president for Workforce Development for the NWTN Workforce Board. “It also aligns directly with the TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development State Plan, Pathways to Prosperity, and the Governor’s Drive to 55 vision to increase postsecondary credentials. As a Workforce Board, we work hard to develop partnerships and implement initiatives with our economic development and education partners in the best way possible, and the LEAP grant accomplishes this perfectly.”

“The collaboration between the Northwest TN Workforce Board, Dyersburg State Community College and the area TN Colleges Applied Technology provides tremendous opportunity for secondary schools to partner with employers to ensure young people have work-ready industrial skills when they are ready to enter the workplace,” said Leader Norris, sponsor of the LEAP grant legislation. “The cooperative training for the Certified Production Technician pathway counts as part of an approved curriculum towards industry-recognized credentials, enabling Tennesseans to learn valuable skills in the classroom and offering exposure to the advanced manufacturing jobs that are in high demand in the area.”

A committee consisting of representatives from higher education, the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Labor, chose 12 LEAP grant recipients from applicants across the state.

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