The Labor & Education Alignment Program (LEAP) grant has provided the local workforce development area a key link in tying together statewide workforce and economic development initiatives like TN Pathways, Drive to 55, Workforce 360 and the local ACT Work Ready Communities project. Offering Certified Production Technician (CPT) classes in high schools builds on partnerships the TN Career Centers have been building with local manufacturers through October Manufacturing Month tours. It also strengthens the Advanced Manufacturing Pathway for students. The coursework provides a solid foundation for young people interested in manufacturing careers. Kristy Mercer, HR Manager for Ceco Doors agrees, “Ceco is excited to see a grant offering manufacturing-friendly classes at the high school level. Laying this groundwork will go a long way in preparing the students for manufacturing careers. I think knowing that your classes will directly contribute to a future job is exciting for the students! Ceco is open to providing tours and job shadowing to complement the program. Gibson County has put forth the effort for several years to improve the workforce and working at the high school level is a great approach.”
Through plant tours and conversations with business leaders, students have changed their opinions about what a job in manufacturing looks like. Matthew McCaig of Gibson County High School commented, “I’ve learned a lot in the CPT class, and it helped me understand the processes at plants we toured. I was surprised that there were so many things during the tour that we talked about in class.” Matthew is taking the CPT classes at GCHS through Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Newbern. Mattew is registered for Tennessee Promise and is happy that he can get credit towards his degree/diploma by taking the CPT classes. He is a junior and plans to start his own carpentry business.
Rhonda Lee, HR Manager at Caterpillar, is also enthusiastic about the CPT classes being offered at the high school level. “Caterpillar hosted students from 3 counties during Manufacturing Month in October. We believe that reaching out to young people while they are still forming opinions about careers is very important. As our workforce ages, we need a pipeline of workers ready to be productive employees. That is why we are committed to offering internship opportunities and other ways to expose young people to good-paying manufacturing jobs of all kinds.”
When a high school student completes the CPT program, many will have attained a National Career Readiness Certificate, which is a credential many of our local employers prefer for new hires. They will have earned nationally recognized credentials in Safety, Quality, Manufacturing Processes, and Maintenance Awareness; and they will be a Certified Production Technician with a high school diploma. The CPT coursework will also transfer to a degree program at DSCC and apply towards many technical tracks at our TCATs. All of this aligns directly with the Governor’s goal to increase postsecondary attainment in our state. Additionally, a quality, trainable workforce positively impacts the region’s attractiveness to industry prospects. We are excited about continuing this program and hope that more high schools and postsecondary institutions across the state will see the benefit of adding this piece of the puzzle to the manufacturing career pathway.