Jackson State News Archives

Oct 17, 2013

Jackson State Hosts Manufacturing Partnership Summit

Representatives from area manufacturers were in attendance today at Jackson State Community College's McWherter Center for the 10th annual Manufacturing Partnership Summit. The event was originally initiated by Jackson State to place a special focus on the workforce and economic competitiveness. Many of the manufacturers that participate in this event have come to depend on Jackson State as a valued partner for workforce development.

Dr. Bruce Blanding opened the summit by welcoming the participants and talking about Jackson State's role in making connections and meeting manufacturing workforce needs. Dr. Blanding alluded to the time when he used to work in production at the Chrysler plant. "Manufacturing is so dramatically different today," he said. "The job that I used to do was considered skilled labor. Those jobs don't exist anymore. Jobs today are in the maintenance and programming of the machines that do the production jobs."

Most all of the presentations for the day focused on the need to change the ways we are educating our children starting as early as elementary schools. The subjects that students are taught in school need to translate to real world skills. Jason Bates, Manager of the TOYOTA|Bodine facility in Jackson, suggested that education needs to incorporate real work experiences in with education so that students can really know what a job entails. According to Bates, education needs to be totally redesigned so that traditional academics, practical skills and soft skills are taught as part of one cohesive program. One of the recommendations mentioned was having work skills taught as part of a work-study program where school work is done for two days of the week and actual on-the-job training is done the other three days of the week.

Other speakers at today's summit included Dr. Richard Rhoda, Executive Director for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Mr. Nicholas Hanson, Program Manager for Pathways to Prosperity Network & Industry Partnerships for the State of Tennessee, Department of Education, and Ms. Chelsea Parker, Executive Director for the Tennessee Council for Career & Technical Education.

The summit this year takes on a special significance for Jackson State since it recently received a $443,784 grant to update technology at the McWherter Center. This grant will help to ensure that the college is on the cutting edge of technology by upgrading the advanced manufacturing industrial technology lab at the Center. Jackson State is partnering with Toyota and other employers in the area to redesign the industrial technology curriculum utilizing the automotive manufacturing technical educational collaborative (AMTEC) standards. The ultimate goal of the grant will be to increase the number of multi-skilled industrial maintenance technicians and skilled production workers necessary to meet the needs of manufacturers in the rural area of West Tennessee and to attract new industry to the area by providing a qualified workforce.

This is a key element in Governor Haslam's "Drive to 55" initiative which has the goal of having 55% of the state's workforce with certificates or degrees beyond high school. This goal will be necessary in order to have a qualified workforce for Tennessee to attract industry and jobs to the state.

After the presentations, a tour of local manufacturing businesses was also a part of the day's activities. Area tours included ARJ Manufacturing, Stanley Black & Decker and the TOYOTA|Bodine facility.