Changing the landscape for Tennessee… Gov. Lee pays visit to get first-hand look at CTE project

Published 6:41 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
With a record number of companies coming to Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee sees the CTE Centralization Project at the Workforce Development Center as a game-changer and a skilled and ready workforce is key.
“Tennessee is one of the most attractive states for businesses to either expand or relocate,” Lee said as he toured the facility on Tuesday. “We have seen that in the last year. We have seen record numbers of companies coming here and the first thing they ask me is ‘are you going to have the workforce that I need to provide the goods and services that I have for my customers? Are you going to have skilled workers for my plant or my facility if we come to Tennessee?’
“This effort toward workforce development that we are seeing here … changes the landscape. It makes Tennessee an attractive place and I think that is part of the reason the effort that we have put out in the last few years toward workforce development is the reason that we are seeing a record number of companies coming here.”
Tuesday’s tour is the first time Lee has seen the facility that many see as a possible pilot for the rest of the state.
The governor is being asked to place $20M in his budget for the renovation of the Workforce Development Center allowing for students to learn trades such as welding, cosmetology, nursing and chemistry.
“What I saw here was collaboration and partnership with Northeast State, TCAT, Carter County School System, and community leaders all coming together to provide opportunity for the people in this community and that is what happens when people work together and this community is working together to provide opportunity for young people and for adults alike,” Gov. Lee said.
“When I came into office, we started the Governor’s Investment Vocational Education Act which we passed that piece of legislation which to me was a really good first start reminding us that people that have gifting attaching their brains to their hands, we need to give those gifted students the opportunity and the pathway to success just like we do for all students. Vocational, technical, agricultural education is the way to do that.
“We have seen that expanding in high schools all over our state and we have now seen colleges of technology and our community colleges have increased enrollment in CTE programs and we just want to provide access to more people to be skilled up and to have an opportunity to go to work in meaningful ways. It’s really just again back to opportunity,” Lee said.
Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby said the governor was able to view what he had seen on paper, and she hopes he will be as excited about the opportunity it brings to the region as she and many others are.
“Right now we brought the governor in to look at the facility as the renovation price tag is $20M to complete renovation and we are asking the governor to include that in his budget,”  Woodby said. “I wanted him to see the opportunities this project will bring to Carter County. The ultimate goal is for these children to come out into a job to be viable citizens in our community by purchasing homes, going to schools, purchasing vehicles and ultimately putting their children back into our school system and making a good living, not to be rich but to make a substantial living to raise families.”
Northeast State Community College is also on board with the project.
“Northeast State has been in this facility for 25 years and right now we have about 400 students who are in this facility,” said Bethany Bullock, president. “The vision is to create a workforce and become a development model that highlights the regional center of excellence.
“We see this as a regional center for energy and environment highlighting the energy resources with Nuclear Fuels, a key partner,  that employees over 1,500 employees in this region as well as agriculture so that bring in the environment side and you heard Gov. Lee talk about agriculture robotics, so we are very excited about what this will offer.”