Tennessee’s Colleges of Applied Technology & students featured in Bloomberg article on the future of career education & workforce
Bloomberg, the prestigious global news and financial services company, reported Thursday, July 6, that Tennessee’s public technical colleges, the state’s free tuition programs, and partnerships with business and industry “offer a glimpse of the future” in career training and workforce development.
Bloomberg journalists spent weeks researching, reporting and photographing the training programs and partnerships at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) in preparation for the article published today, “The US Is Building Factories Again, But Who Will Work There? America’s drive to compete with China in manufacturing requires lots more skilled workers. Tennessee’s experiment with free technical school and its close partnerships with business giants like Volkswagen and Nissan, offer a glimpse of the future.”
The article by Bloomberg reporters Mackenzie Hawkins and Reade Pickert and photographed by Houston Cofield provides an overview of Tennessee’s burgeoning electric vehicle industry and how the state’s public technical colleges are rising to train residents for well-paying careers and provide the skilled workforce that it and other industries need.
Several students at TCAT Murfreesboro and its Smyrna Campus are featured.
Alexander Nunez-Patino, 19, said he faced a choice of going to work immediately after high school or joining several friends at a university - but found a third option. “I just wanted to get straight to the point of working. But I also didn’t want to just completely drop education,” he said in the article. “He toured a TCAT campus and thought ‘the classroom looks amazing. I feel like I’m going to get some great hands-on experience.’
"Now he’s studying industrial electrical maintenance. ‘I could be an electrician if I wanted to,’ he says. ‘I could actually work on building machines if I wanted to. I could try repairing machines. There’s a lot I could do,' " the article says.
The story also highlights the dramatic rise of dual enrollment in Tennessee: the number of high school students taking college courses and earning college credit while in high school has roughly tripled since 2016.
It also features adults returning to school. Tennessee’s financial aid programs assist students of all ages – dual enrollment grants for high school students, Tennessee Promise for new high school graduates, and Tennessee Reconnect for adults without college credentials. That means either tuition-free or sharply reduced technical and community college attendance for most students.
The Bloomberg article also cites partnerships between industries and the colleges that include apprenticeships, which enable students to earn while they learn.
Pierre Reid, 56, an industrial electrical maintenance student said he learned about his TCAT through a discipleship academy. “After serving in the military and working in warehousing and manufacturing, he now spends his days cutting steel – and then comes to class after a 9.5-hour shift. ‘I love what I do,’ he says. ‘I wanted to learn more about the machines that I’ve been running,’” the article says.
The article is not exclusively focused on manufacturing careers, however, and includes interviews with two information technology students. Alex Rymer, 32, said his mom encouraged him to consider enrolling at a TCAT after he earned an English degree at a university. “Now he’s at TCAT to pivot from his job at a local café to a career in IT. ‘I just didn’t want to feel limited to not having a certification for a job opportunity or a raise’,” the article quotes him as saying.
And Jacob Kerley, 23, told the Bloomberg reporters that he came to the TCAT after brief stints in a university nursing program and on an assembly line in Kentucky. As an information technology student, he said he’s not worried about finding a job: “I feel like I have very good opportunities anywhere,” he said.
The article also cites the partnership between the State of Tennessee and Ford Motor Company, which includes building a new TCAT campus at Ford’s BlueOval City electric vehicle plant under construction in West Tennessee, and Chattanooga State Community College’s partnership with Volkswagen in Chattanooga, which includes the Mechatronics Academy and an apprenticeship program.
A Bloomberg Quicktake video overview of the article, via Twitter, is here: https://twitter.com/Quicktake/status/1676896035912687616?s=20
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 24 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.