With the high retirement rate of post-World War II baby boomers, there are simply not enough qualified people to hire. NAM estimates there are over 1 million jobs not filled requiring advanced trade skills.
With more emphasis on domestic manufacturing, this has become the leading issue with corporate USA. In our local area, unemployment in Warren & Coffee counties is at 3 percent, considered to be “perfect” employment. This problem has been in place and growing since 2008.
What to do about it? Warren County has literally led all of Tennessee with developing advanced skills training. Since 2008, we will have raised close to $9.9 million, as follows:
Motlow College seed money for Mechatronics
Warren County fundraising during 2009 to match Motlow
Walmart-McMinnville donation in March 2010
ARC federal matching funds grant in 2010
Department of Labor grant in 2011
Perkins grant to WC Schools in 2013
TN Capacity grant for robotics center – November 2017
Warren County fund raising in late 2017, early 2018 for WC Schools robotics program
Local fundraising for Mechatronics and robotics totals $359,090. That is a lot of local generosity. Now let’s look at program results to date.
1. There are Mechatronics labs at Motlow-McMinnville and WCHS with close to $1 million in advanced factory automation devices. This provides a great learning experience for our youth that leads to excellent paying jobs and careers. Motlow recently completed a study of 75 graduates of Mechatronics to find these ex-students in jobs paying from $30,000 to $85,000 a year.
2. There are record levels of Mechatronics students at all locations – 230 students this fall taking the two-year associate’s degree in Mechatronics. There are 14 students at MTSU taking Level Three Mechatronics leading to a bachelor’s degree. There are a record 29 juniors and 29 seniors (both records) at WCHS this fall taking Level One Mechatronics. The student numbers continue to grow each year. Motlow College is starting a Mechatronics program at its Fayetteville campus this fall. They have 19 students into the program to begin with, plus a new faculty member, Dr. Malek Abunaemeh.
3. Motlow Mechatronics faculty currently has four full-time instructors and six adjunct instructors. They are working at capacity with the student growth.
4. There are 100 dual enrollment students taking Mechatronics this fall along with the 230 AS students, making total headcount at 330.
5. Warren County High School is replacing the computers in its Mechatronics lab, starting a new robotics classroom with seven MotoSim programming stations and two video kiosk boards, one new Motoman CNC robot, and two late model Motoman welding robots. In addition, there will be MotoSim units and video boards for the five K-8 elementary schools (one each per school). Motlow has added a new ABB industrial robot for their trainer station and a donated used Fanuc robot to their main Mechatronics classroom, which was moved over the summer into a larger area. Motlow has also updated their Siemens system software and added a vision system. Both WCHS & Motlow continue to add to their technology base.
6. WCHS will integrate robotics training into its Mechatronics training this academic year. The school will develop a comprehensive robotics training plan during this year for State Department of Education approval to start in the 2018-19 academic year.
7. Last academic year, WCHS rolled out a fully equipped STEM mobile lab/trailer to travel to the five elementary schools throughout the school year. The CTE department continues to add STEM apparatus to the trailer including Mechatronics and Robotics. Starting this fall, K-8 science leader Diane Parton will be assigned the STEM trailer in addition to BEECH at Bridgestone-Warren.
8. Construction of the new Motlow Robotics Center is expected to begin sometime from year end 2017 to spring of 2018. Once started, it will take one year to build the new 12,500-square-foot facility and equip it for academic use. Expected start of student training is spring 2019 for robot users (employees) and fall 2019 for credit earning students. There will be five classrooms in the center with a student capacity of 15-18 each. Terri Bryson, Motlow VP of marketing, oversees the Robotics Center project. Larry Flatt was appointed director of the Robotics Center.
9. WCHS will be adding five new welding booths to its welding shop to the two existing booths. There are 100 students this fall taking welding, plus another 28 doing dual enrollment at TCAT in welding. There is a 98 percent increase in dual enrollment for WCHS students taking Motlow classes (fall 2017 vs. fall 2016).
10. WCHS is starting a student career readiness diploma program in September whereby seniors will be measured in attendance, unexcused absences, tardiness, discipline, GPA, etc. for a total of 14 criteria. Points are awarded for achievement in each area. If a student accumulates 20 or more points during their senior year, they will receive a career readiness diploma in addition to a WCHS diploma upon graduation. Local industry and commercial employers may sign up to support this program giving priority consideration to such achieving students when hiring.
Warren County citizens are encouraged to visit WCHS or Motlow-McMinnville and tour these facilities to see first hand the amazing progress being made. There is a reason why the Tennessee Commissioner of Labor and the governor have visited our county over the past 10 months.
The overall fundraising would not have been possible without the assistance of Dr. MaryLou Apple, former state Sen. Jerry Cooper, former County Executive John Pelham, IDB directors Jeff McCormick and Don Alexander, CTE director Tracy Risinger, Director of Schools Bobby Cox, Motlow dean Fred Rascoe, UCDD grant writer Megan Choate, McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley, County Executive Herschel Wells, the McMinnville Board of Aldermen, the Warren County Commission, the Warren County School Board, and Yorozu Automotive.
We especially thank all our donors who helped put McMinnville and Warren County “on the map.” Everyone can take great pride in what Warren County has achieved.