Southwest and TCAT-Memphis celebrate economic impact at 2018 Legislative Luncheon
Southwest Tennessee Community College and Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Memphis (TCAT-Memphis) co-hosted this year’s legislative luncheon, “Together Mid-South,” on Nov. 19 at Southwest’s Whitehaven Center. Southwest President Tracy D. Hall and TCAT-Memphis President Roland Rayner jointly celebrated the progress and achievements of their respective institutions as a way to show the community how “they are better together.”
Hall and Rayner provided updates on their respective workforce development programs and future plans for addressing local and regional workforce needs.
“President Rayner and I are committed to making Memphis the best it can be,” President Hall said. “We are on a mission to advance our workforce development programs and we both agree that we are better and stronger together.”
Southwest Executive Assistant to the President for Government Relations Sherman Greer welcomed the packed room of invited guests that was comprised of more than 20 state and local elected officials, along with Tennessee Board of Regents senior leadership and representatives from area chambers of commerce, the business community, area school districts and workforce partners.
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris delivered the keynote address. “There is a lot of positive momentum going on in our community,” Mayor Harris said. “Today is a sign that we have opportunities for workforce development and I think Southwest is at the forefront.
“Everyone agrees we should do a better job to make a workforce with skills desirable to our employers. It’s sustainable in your community—if you have a desirable workforce, businesses will move there,” Mayor Harris stressed.
Dr. Hall outlined Southwest’s widening footprint since beginning her tenure three years ago. “Our goal is to provide access—employers access to the talent they need to compete and people access to the skills they need to get good jobs and programs they desire to improve their personal and professional quality of life,” she said.
Among the speakers for the day, Associate Vice President for Workforce, Economic Development and Continuing Education Anita Brackin presented her strategy for growing Southwest’s capacity to provide valuable educational and training opportunities. She says the College conducts surveys and engages industry sectors to ensure Southwest is providing the training students and employers need and want. “We recruit instructors who are industry experts, solicit a company’s input on the curriculum and provide the latest technology and equipment,” Brackin said.
Following Southwest’s presentations, President Rayner thanked Dr. Hall for reaching out to partner for this occasion. “We can do greater things working together,” Rayner said. He also provided an update on TCAT-Memphis and its growing enrollment numbers. He said the school averages more than 1,600 students annually and offers 24 technical programs, with the largest being aviation, followed by diesel mechanics and nursing. “One new program we are passionate about is the medical device industry, the largest export industry in Tennessee,” Rayner said. “This industry has an average wage that is 65.7 percent higher than the average wage of the county.” Thanks to a MOVE-HIRE grant, Southwest and TCAT-Memphis are developing new short-term, cutting-edge training programs for the industry.
Carolyn Hardy, President/CEO of Chism Hardy Investments LLC, closed out the program reiterating the importance of a trained, skilled workforce in Memphis. She recounted the story of how Southwest partnered with her to develop a new process to qualify students and train them as workers for the brewery she owned and sold to Blues City Brewing in 2011. “Southwest is very responsive to the needs of the community,” Hardy said. “I am very impressed with their razor focus on what this community needs.”
Hardy reminded everyone of the most devastating toll an unskilled workforce can have on the local economy—poverty. “One of the biggest problems in our community is an underdeveloped skilled workforce; it contributes to a poverty state. Over 30 percent of our kids live in poverty every day and I think about that every time I go to sleep. I know the solution is having a community college.”