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Chamber, Pellissippi State, & Manufacturers Tackle Workforce Development
Anthony Welsch
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Knoxville Chamber and Pellissippi State want to help students land jobs while improving the labor pool as the community college looks to add a new East Knox County campus. To help that make that growth a reality, business leaders, the Chamber, and officials from several secondary education facilities heard how to improve Knox County's workforce at a meeting recently hosted by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters at its Forks of the River facility.

Pellissippi State is in the process of purchasing a 223,000 square foot building on Strawberry Plains Pike and plan to start offering classes in Fall 2012 just a few miles away from a pair of large industrial parks.

"It gives us an opportunity to fill workforce development needs in the community," Dr. Anthony Wise, the President of Pellissippi State Community College said.

With its fourth Knox County campus, Pellissippi State is reaching out to Knox County's corporate residents at Forks of the River and Eastbridge Industrial Parks to find out what training, academic coursework, and facilities the business community would deem most beneficial.

"We are so excited about the space to do some innovative things when it comes to partnership and meeting workforce development needs," Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State's executive director of economic and workforce development said.

Preliminary feedback at that recent meeting indicated a strong desire for technically skilled labor that had maintenance, machinery operation, and other hard skills.

"It's just getting people familiar with a technical level that's beyond pushing a start/stop button. They need to have next-level trouble shooting skills as well," Teri Williams, Melaleuca's vice president of operations said.

While Knox County currently enjoys an unemployment rate among the lowest in the state, local manufacturers say those in the workforce who are unable to find work are lacking in the skills necessary to contribute at facilities.

That puts especially high value on partnerships the Knoxville Chamber, Pellissippi State, and the business community are working to build as they eye training programs and curriculums that could benefit all parties involved.

"It's how do you get them into programs like this and ready for the workforce." Mike Brennan, the Director of Operations at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Knox County facility said.Currently, Tennessee ranks 42nd in the nation in degree attainment.

Pellissippi State hopes to close the gap on other states with a goal of reaching the national average for citizens with an Associates degree or higher by the year 2025.

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