Officials broke ground today on a new $35 million training center, designed as an innovative example of higher education partnering with private industry to provide a skilled and educated workforce for the community.
The Tennessee Board of Regents is building the 150,000-plus square-foot education and training center in Smyrna, Tenn., near Nissan’s Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant. The facility will operate as an extension of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus at Murfreesboro, but the TCAT-Murfreesboro and Nissan will occupy it jointly.
Governor Bill Haslam was a featured speaker at the event, which also included remarks from José Muñoz, executive vice president of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and chairman of Nissan North America, and John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the governing body for the TCAT system. Also in attendance were local legislators; city, county and community leaders; a host of Nissan officials; and numerous other business and community members.
“This is exactly the kind of intentional partnership we want to see happening across the state as part of the Drive to 55,” said Governor Bill Haslam. “Tying the training and skills that our colleges are teaching directly to current workforce needs will help more Tennesseans qualify for good paying, high-quality jobs.”
The joint training center was included in the fiscal year 2014 budget as part of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate to 55 percent by the year 2025.
“Nissan’s success in Tennessee for more than 30 years is due in large part to our ability to recruit and retain a quality workforce of more than 12,000 employees working at the company’s operations in Smyrna, Franklin and Decherd,” Muñoz said. “This new training center is a key component to the long-term sustainability and continued growth of our business in Tennessee and another testament to the State’s commitment to advancing business through education.”
Critical to that commitment are quality training programs that respond to industry needs, stressed Morgan.
“The Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology serve a vital role in providing high-quality education to our state’s residents,” said TBR Chancellor John Morgan. “This new center is a testament to the continued success of our TCATs and the confidence placed in our ability to train highly skilled workers to meet the unique needs of local industry and help enhance our state’s economic development.”
The training center is scheduled to be completed by late 2016. Once complete, the center will offer a variety of training programs, which could include automotive technology, mechatronics, welding, machine tool technology and other programs related to advanced manufacturing, providing a steady supply of skilled graduates for companies throughout a 10-county area. In addition, the new center will open up space at TCAT-Murfreesboro to expand existing programs or offer new ones.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.