Row of students in hard hats and vests

Expanding Minds

Row of students in hard hats and vests

Expanding Minds

cmills4 April 26, 2019

Earning $65,000 or more per year sounds pretty good.

Imagine how it sounds to a teenager.

That’s one thing Pellissippi State is banking on as the College uses a $25,000 grant from Arconic Foundation to bring the state’s Dream It. Do It. Tennessee initiative to Blount County.

Dream It. Do It. Tennessee was co-founded by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services to respond to an ongoing need to fill the hundreds of job vacancies each year in advanced manufacturing. Nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs likely will be available over the next decade, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

“With the number of new jobs coming into Blount County specifically, we have to do everything we can as a College to train the next generation workforce,” says Teri Brahams, executive director for Economic and Workforce Development at Pellissippi State.

Dream It. Do It. Tennessee is designed to create awareness among young people about the training and job opportunities that exist in advanced manufacturing today. Careers highlighted on the Dream It. Do It. Tennessee website – along with their average salary in Tennessee and the level of education needed for an entry-level position – include machinist, electronics engineering technician, industrial designer, electrician, welder, chemical engineer, computer hardware engineer, assembler and mechanical engineer.

“We want these students to make that connection to a real person with a real job.”
Teri Brahams
Executive Director for Economic and Workforce Development at Pellissippi State​

Through Dream It. Do It., Pellissippi State will be able to introduce Blount County middle and high school students to the careers available to them in advanced manufacturing right here in their backyards.

“While we hope it helps recruit students into our career and technical programs, we also hope that this program continues to chip away at the misperception that manufacturing is not a career that you want to pursue,” Brahams notes.

Some 480 eighth graders from Alcoa, Blount County and Maryville schools will visit Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus for Career Exploration Days in May. During 2 1/2-hour campus visits, they’ll learn about hydraulics and pneumatics, robotics and welding; tour the campus; and get an introduction to college.

“Our faculty will be leading these sessions, but we also are asking our employer partners to participate so that students can hear from employees how they use these skills in their worklife and how great it is to work at their particular company,” Brahams explains. “We want these students to make that connection to a real person with a real job.”

High school students from Alcoa, Blount County and Maryville school systems take part in the Young Manufacturers Academy on  Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus in 2018.

While the Dream It. Do It. Tennessee Initiative is new to Blount County, this is the second year Pellissippi State has offered Career Exploration Days for area eighth graders, she adds. The first year was funded by a different grant.

“The Career Exploration Days at Pellissippi State for our middle school students provides them the opportunity to perform hands-on tasks done by college level students who are entering the engineering and manufacturing field,” says Alisa Teffeteller, supervisor of Federal Programs/Career Technical Education at Blount County Schools. “The early college exposure opens the middle school student’s eyes to life on a college campus.”

A smaller group of select Blount County high school students will get a week’s worth of manufacturing instruction at Pellissippi State this summer through a Young Manufacturers Academy. In the mornings, the students will visit one of Pellissippi State’s industry partners in Blount County to tour the company and learn about the types of jobs available and the kinds of trainings needed for those positions. In the afternoons, Pellissippi State faculty will lead students through learning exercises that build on that morning’s site visit.

“The students will get to use our equipment here to learn, ‘What does it mean to program a programmable logic controller?’ or ‘How do I get a robot to do that?’” Brahams explains. “And on Friday, we’ll recap everything they’ve learned that week.”

Similar to the middle school-focused Career Exploration Days, this will be the second summer Pellissippi State has offered the Young Manufacturers Academy for high school students.

“Engaging our students is crucial as they look at pathways to college and career,” said Jessica Belitz, director of events and partnership programs for Blount Partnership, which helped with the event for high school students last summer. “As we prepare to fill the thousands of jobs that have been created in Blount County over the last few years, the Blount Partnership appreciates Pellissippi State’s partnership in informing students about high-need job areas, such as robotics, welding, hydraulics and pneumatics.”

Arconic Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Arconic, was happy to partner with Pellissippi State to bring the Dream. It. Do. It. Tennessee initiative to Blount County.

“Arconic creates products that shape industries and solve our customers’ toughest challenges – those that require ingenuity and engineering and technical expertise from the brightest minds,” says Jeff Weida, plant manager at Arconic Tennessee Operations. “That’s why Arconic and Arconic Foundation continue to partner with educational institutions like Pellissippi State, to expose students to a wide array of STEM career opportunities.”

For more information on how to get involved with workforce development efforts in Blount County, contact Jessica Belitz at or Teri Brahams at