TCAT Elizabethton to celebrate 50th
Published 8:40 am Wednesday, September 30, 2015
On Thursday, Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton will,celebrate its 50th anniversary. The school invites all current and former students,faculty and staff to join in commemorating the achievements and growth.
The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the main campus at 426 Highway 91 North in the Watauga Industrial Park across from the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.
A 1993 time capsule from the Arney Street campus will be opened after a brief presentation in the administration building auditorium, with tours before and after the opening.
During the presentation, TCAT Director Dean Blevins will welcome everyone, and Mayor Curt Alexander will present a proclamation honoring the accomplishments of TCAT Elizabethton on its 50th anniversary.
Speaker of the Senate Ron Ramsey and Senator Rusty Crowe will sign a proclamation recognizing TCAT and declaring eager anticipation of the next 50 years.
“When it began, there weren’t many students,” TCAT spokesman Bob Robinson said. “Now we have over 1,000, and we have had over a 25 percent recent increase with Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect.”
Now the school is the sixth largest of 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, and it saw an increase of over 470 students as of Sept. 1 resulting from TN Promise and Reconnect. That number is expected to increase.
Legislation was passed in 1963 by the Tennessee General Assembly to establish technical vocational schools within a 50-mile radius of every Tennessee residence. In 1965, the Elizabethton school began offering a few courses such as auto mechanics, electricity and office occupations.
State Sen. Herman Robinson of Elizabethton was a prime sponsor of the legislation with support from Gov. Frank Clement and Commissioner of Education J. Howard Warf because they knew that not every Tennessee resident had the desire or ability to attend a university to develop job skills.
TCAT’s programs continue to be very successful at preparing students for the workforce, Robinson said. Students commute from Carter, Sullivan, Washington, Johnson, Sullivan and Unicoi counties, and Robinson said some even come from Abingdon, Va., and Asheville, N.C.
The school received the Exceptional Training Provider Award from the Tennessee HigherEducation Commission in 2004 for having the highest student placement rate among 152 public and private post-secondary Workforce Investment Act training facilities in the state.
From August 2013 to August 2014, its program completion rate was 90 percent with a job placement rate of 88 percent and a 92 percent pass rate on the Tennessee Board of Nursing Exam.
“Some national statistics show that job openings exist for those with technical degrees, and that jobs are not as plentiful for those with university degrees,” Robinson said. “Regional job opportunities are plentiful with certificates in pipe fitting, welding or automotive mechanics, so you’re at an advantage over someone with a typical bachelor’s degree.”
TCAT Elizabethton’s 11 programs may be completed in 12 to 20 months for about $3,500 for 12 months of training, which can be paid completely with the Federal Pell Grant and the Tennessee Lottery Wilder-Naifeh Scholarship.
Now with Tennessee Promise for high school students and Tennessee Reconnect for adults, students can attend TCAT tuition-free for two years after financial assistance has been applied.
Thursday’s celebration will honor the progress of TCAT Elizabethton and the strides it has made in making education available to all.
The college received the second-highest award among TCATs across the state in the form of $640,000. The school used the money to purchase equipment for the Diesel Powered Equipment Technology Program, which recently received the 2015 National Technical Program of the Year Award from the American Technical Education Association.
In June 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam selected the school to receive a $650,000 grant to buy equipment for an off-campus welding program and to create a new machine tool program on campus.
TCAT Elizabethton is one of four NC3 Regional Training Centers, and this year, a train-the-trainer program was held at the Elizabethton location at which 67 instructors from across the country received a variety of certifications.