Haslam bolsters Drive to 55 campaign with new college counseling program for high schools

On May 19, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Advise TN, a program to increase the number of students accessing higher education by providing college counselors to 30 public high schools and 10,000 junior and senior students across the state this fall.

The new initiative, administered by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), supports the state’s Drive to 55 campaign to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025.

“As a result of Tennessee Promise, first-time freshmen enrollment has increased 25 percent at community colleges. We are changing the conversation in Tennessee around going to college, and there’s more we can do,” Haslam said. “Research tells us that having a school-wide culture of college-going – of students knowing that college isn’t only an option for them but it’s an expectation – is one of the best indicators of whether students will pursue higher education. This program will provide schools across the state with one more adult in students’ lives, focused on helping them navigate the transition from high school to college.”

Partner high schools will be selected through a competitive process based on a strong commitment to building a college-going culture. To be eligible for consideration, high schools must have a college-going rate that is less than the state average. For more information and to access an application, visit http://tn.gov/thec/topic/advisetn. The deadline for schools to apply is August 12.

College advisors are being hired and trained this summer and will be placed with partner schools in fall 2016. They will work alongside the school’s counselors, educators, parents and local partners to implement college-access best practices and foster the school’s college-going culture, devise creative approaches to reach and connect with students, and, most importantly, assist students and their families as they navigate the college-going process. Advisors will supplement, not replace, existing high school counseling staff.

“Advise TN will complement the programs that have emerged statewide through the Drive to 55 by providing more resources, time, and individual focus to ensure postsecondary access and success,” THEC’s interim executive director Russ Deaton said. “We are all looking forward to this expanded school-level collaboration and ensuring that Tennessee’s college enrollment continues to grow.”

Advise TN was included in Haslam’s 2016-17 budget with funding of $2,455,800. High schools selected to participate in Advise TN are expected to develop sustainability plans to continue the program beyond initial state funding.

College to career navigation succeeds at JSCC

Many students encounter difficulty as they progress from high school to college. Around this time, emerging adults are confused about where they stand, what they want to be, or how to achieve their goals. Colleges offer the courses needed for success, but they don’t necessarily provide students with the information needed to connect their personal interests with education that will lead to a productive and satisfying career.

Jackson State Community College began piloting COL 1030, College to Career Navigation, in Fall 2015. The purpose of the “Navigation” course is to help students learn how to connect their personal goals and strengths to their college experience. The course is designed to provide students with the foundational skills and tools they need to be successful in college and, ultimately, their careers.

Dr. Nell Senter, dean of social and behavioral sciences, chaired the committee that was tasked with the responsibility of developing the curriculum for this course. She explains that JSCC adopted the On Course strategies and materials that were created at Baltimore City Community College and over the past decade have improved retention and completion rates at more than 400 colleges across the U.S. and Canada.

According to Senter, even though the response from students who have taken the course is overwhelmingly enthusiastic many students are hesitant to take a course like this. “It is an elective course and students are often reluctant to take a class that is not required and is viewed as outside their area of study,” she explains.

Beginning 2016-2017 COL 1030 will be required for K-5 AST (Associate of Teaching) and General Studies majors. The class is now a regular part of the JSCC schedule with sections offered this summer and 7-9 sections offered in the fall, including sections at the remote campuses. While many first year students benefit from this class many non-traditional students benefit as well.

“The students who have taken the course this year have given it rave reviews,” Senter explains, “and we are hopeful that positive word-of-mouth endorsements will increase participation. The students have really seen the value of the course. They particularly enjoy the off-campus ‘Escape Room’ sessions that are part of the class.”

Student Emily Allen stated that the class “…helps you to understand yourself better and to think of things you have never thought of before. I learned a lot about myself and had fun in the process,” said Allen.

“When I first took this class,” explains student Kameron Wilson, “I didn’t think it would help me much. It turned out to be one of the most impactful classes I’ve ever taken. I feel extremely confident about my future.”

JSCC Industrial Technology program graduates first AMT cohort

Nearly 140 people gathered Thursday night at the Jackson Country Club to celebrate a significant milestone. The first Advanced Maintenance Technician (AMT) cohort will receive applied associate degrees in industrial technology on Saturday, May 7.

“This is a big night for both our students and for everyone here tonight,” said Terri Messer, dean of business and industry. “When we were first recruiting students for this cohort in 2014, we didn’t know if we would be able to get 20 students to apply. We have 20 receiving degrees this weekend.”

Of the 20 graduates, 18 are currently employed. Two members of the class have job interviews scheduled and also plan to transfer to 4-year degree programs.

Area human resource professional Ben Ferguson was the keynote speaker for the event. Ferguson commended the graduates on the “smart” choice they made to pursue and complete this valuable training. Ferguson advised the graduates that they would be able to take the skills they have learned over the past couple of years and go directly into the workforce with a great paying job with little or no debt.

Ferguson continued with advice to the graduates with a humorous list of the top 10 things “not to do” to be successful in their new careers. This included a number of extraordinary situations he has encountered over his 10-year experience in leading Personnel Placements.

AMT was begun as a way to encourage graduating high school seniors to pursue careers in the manufacturing sector and to generate much-needed skilled labor for area manufacturers. JSCC has a long-standing reputation of working with area businesses to develop a skilled workforce to meet their needs.

For the first round of AMT, 17 area manufacturers developed a consortium with the college in which the AMT students would work and acquire on-the-job experience while working on their degrees at JSCC. In the arrangement, students work 3 days a week and attend classes 2 days a week. They also begin the program earning $12 an hour on a graduated scale to $14 an hour by the end of the program.

Jason Bates, administrative manager at consortium member TOYOTA|Bodine Aluminum, Inc., has commented that during the economic slowdown over the past several years, individuals who have had the technical training and expertise to maintain manufacturing operations have had no unemployment issues. According to Bates, “the number-one unfilled job opening during the ‘Great Recession’ was skilled technicians.” What is worse, there are not enough people being trained or seeking to be trained to fill these positions.

“The AMT Program offers participants a great opportunity to earn an AAS degree, to get their foot in the door of area manufacturers, get trained at a high-tech job, and to get paid while doing it. This is a bold new approach at how we educate the workforce of tomorrow,” says Messer.

Additional information about the admissions process and an application for the AMT program can be found at www.jscc.edu/amt or by contacting Cathi Roberts at 731-425-9584 or emailing her at croberts7@jscc.edu.