Pellissippi State moves online for rest of semester, postpones commencement

Pellissippi State sign at entrance to Hardin Valley Campus
Pellissippi State is moving its classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester.

President L. Anthony Wise Jr. announced Thursday that it is in the best interest of Pellissippi State Community College faculty, staff and students to move classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester, with very few exceptions. 

This serious decision was made after the White House and the Centers for Disease Control revised their guidance that social gatherings should be limited to 10 or fewer people, a challenge for any institution. 

To that end, all college events through May 11 have been canceled, effective immediately. Spring commencement and the Nursing pinning ceremony, originally planned for May 10, will be postponed until a later date, but will be held in person when it is safe to do so. 

We know this is not the semester you imagined. It is not the semester we imagined. But we will get through this together,” Wise said in an email to faculty, staff and students. “We have a dedicated group of employees working every day to ensure we cover all our bases so we can finish the semester Pellissippi Strong. This includes everything from offering advising and tutoring online or by phone to making sure our work-study students and part-time employees get paid, even if their jobs change to duties they can do remotely. 

Although classes are moving to an online format for the rest of the semester, at least one computer lab on each campus will continue to operate its normal hours. However, there will be a reservation system put in place after the college’s extended spring break ends March 29 to ensure that there are no more than 10 people in a lab at one time. The same is true for classes that need to hold labs on campus to complete the semester. Instructors may meet with nine or fewer students in a lab while practicing social distancing measures of leaving at least 6 feet between individuals. 

As Pellissippi State transitions to an online learning environment, students can submit questions and concerns about technology, coursework, and support services to our new PantherHelp team at this link. Pellissippi State will continue to update its website – www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus – with frequently asked questions, as well as new pages of resources for faculty, staff and students.  The college also will communicate with faculty, staff and students via their Pellissippi State email and Pellissippi State’s social media accounts. 

Meanwhile, Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services has suspended all non-credit classes until further notice as well and is working with those instructors to discuss rescheduling options. Those with questions about non-credit classes should call 865.539.7167 or email bcs@pstcc.edu. 

“Although these are challenging circumstances, I look forward to the day when we can gather in community on campus once again,” Wise said. 

View Wise’s video message to faculty, staff and students today at www.pstcc.edu 

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Pellissippi State Media Technologies program to host Digital Storytelling Forum April 24

Female students operating cameras
Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program will host a Digital Storytelling Forum on April 24.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Media Technologies program will host “The Art, Science & Impact of Digital Storytelling” on Friday, April 24, on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The half-day event is designed as a continuing education forum for professionals, faculty, students and alumni in East Tennessee’s digital, creative and strategic communication communities.

“We’re excited to welcome East Tennessee’s creative and strategic communications community to join us for learning, sharing and networking opportunities, as we interact with Pellissippi State’s Media Technology students who represent such an important segment of our industry’s workforce pipeline,” said Mary Beth West, volunteer chair of Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies development campaign.

Presented by sponsors The Hive and Discovery Inc., this Digital Storytelling forum will bring together thought leaders in digital production, creative services and brand storytelling to discuss industry trends and workforce opportunities as greater Knoxville continues to evolve as a nationally and internationally recognized center of digital content development for major broadcasting and consumer platforms.

All proceeds will benefit Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program, which offers concentrations in Audio Production Engineering, Design for Web and Print, Photography, Video Production Technology and Web Technology.

A full slate of session and keynote speakers will be announced soon. Planned break-out sessions during the forum will include topics such as:

  • Igniting the Power of Social Listening
  • Crafting Digital Messages that Motivate Audiences to Action
  • Building Greater Knoxville’s National Reputation as a Creative Community
  • User-Experience Trends in Digital Development
  • Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, Bias and What it All Means for Clients and Consumers
  • Employer Panel – Hiring Needs & Priorities for 2020-21

Registration can be accessed at www.pstcc.edu/bcs, with fee options including:

  • $55 for early bird registration by March 31
  • $25 for professionals to sponsor attendance for one Pellissippi State student
  • $25 for students
  • $75 to register between April 1 and April 20
  • $95 to register after April 20 or on site the day of the forum

The event will be held in the Goins Administration Building, but will include a student showcase and networking reception in the college’s Bagwell Center for Media and Art, which opened on the Hardin Valley Campus in September 2007. The building is named in honor of Ross Bagwell Sr., a pioneer in the cable television production industry, and his family.

“Pellissippi State’s Bagwell Center for Media and Art includes impressive facilities and technical capabilities for students to gain hands-on, experiential learning,” West said. “This event will be a fantastic opportunity for industry employers and hiring managers to tour the school and meet with students from the next graduating class.”

The Pellissippi State Foundation is welcoming more corporate sponsors until March 20. Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities during the event should contact Executive Director Aneisa Rolen at 865.694.6525 or alrolen@pstcc.edu.

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Pellissippi State expands Culinary Arts program into Blount County with new Culinary Institute

Two Culinary Arts students prepping in the kitchen
Pellissippi State Culinary Arts students prep food for an event on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus in November 2019.

A $250,000 gift from the Blackberry Farm Foundation is paving the way to expand Pellissippi State Community College’s Culinary Arts program into Blount County.

The new Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the college’s Blount County Campus will include a 4,700-square-foot Culinary Institute, including a teaching and demonstration kitchen and a baking center.

The Culinary Institute will support not only Pellissippi State’s students seeking an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, but also will be located adjacent to the Workforce Development Center’s Corporate Training Center and Lobby so that Culinary Arts students can support the community at events and pre-event functions held on the Blount County Campus.

“Blackberry Farm Foundation is excited to continue to invest in our already successful relationship with Pellissippi State,” said Matt Alexander, Blackberry Farm president, noting Blackberry Farm provides internships for Pellissippi State’s Culinary Arts students. “The restaurant and hospitality industries provide so much opportunity for advancement, as well as lifelong careers. We believe it is important for us to expand our impact on the industry and help create pathways to careers in culinary arts.”

“This expansion of Pellissippi State’s Culinary Arts program into Blount County will not only benefit local college students who want to prepare for a career in Culinary Arts, but also will provide dual enrollment opportunities with local high schools that offer Culinary Arts classes,” added Dean Michael Wolfe.

Currently, Pellissippi State’s Culinary Arts program is based on the college’s Division Street Campus in Knoxville, with students using the kitchen facilities at the nearby University of Tennessee. The Culinary Institute in the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center marks Pellissippi State’s first on-campus facilities dedicated to Culinary Arts and will allow the program to offer additional concentrations such as baking.

Pellissippi State also is looking at offering a one-year certificate program to prepare students for casual dining careers, in keeping with Gov. Bill Lee’s workforce education priorities.

“With the support of local employers, Pellissippi State will develop pathways to culinary degrees that include significant amounts of work-based learning,” Wolfe said.

An artist rendering of the outside of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center
This artist rendering, courtesy of BarberMcMurry Architects, shows the new building planned for Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus.

Construction of the Culinary Institute at the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center is expected to cost $1.9 million, with an additional $525,000 set aside for outfitting the institute with the necessary equipment. Pellissippi State plans to employ new full-time faculty members and a kitchen technician to staff the Culinary Institute.

The Culinary Arts program at Pellissippi State is offered as a cohort, in that students begin and progress through a degree program as a united group. The Culinary Institute on the Blount County Campus will have the capacity to enroll 20 students in the daytime cohort and 20 students in the evening cohort, with full enrollment capped at 80 full-time students progressing through the program concurrently over the two years it takes to complete the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts.

Pellissippi State’s Culinary Arts program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation. Graduates certify through the National Restaurant Association in food production and sanitation, and graduates of ACF-accredited programs such as Pellissippi State are certified as ACF culinarians upon graduation.

To learn more about Pellissippi State’s Culinary Arts program, contact Chef Joseph Blauvelt, program coordinator, at jsblauvelt@pstcc.edu or 865.971.5246, or contact Pellissippi State’s Admissions office at admissions@pstcc.edu or 865.694.6400.

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Pellissippi State offers Career in a Calendar Year for Medical Office occupations starting in 2020

Student in scrubs in front of files at a doctor's office
You could be ready to work in a medical office by this time next year with Pellissippi State’s Career in a Calendar Year for Medical Office, which launches in January.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2020 is to start a new career, Pellissippi State Community College has options to help you meet that goal in just 12 months.

Pellissippi State is launching Career in a Calendar Year in January for Medical Office, a concentration in the college’s Administrative Professional Technology program.

By attending accelerated classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights as well as some online courses, students who start in January can earn two certificates in the medical office field by December.

“This format appeals to many of our students,” said Program Coordinator Regina Buckley.

Students who take the prescribed three classes in spring 2020, two in summer 2020 and four in fall 2020 will finish the calendar year with their two certificates, as well as 27 credit hours toward an associate degree in Medical Office, a concentration in the Administrative Professional Technology program.

While 27 credit hours is shy of the 60-61 hours needed to complete the associate degree, students who complete the 27 hours will have two Pellissippi State certificates that enable them to work in the medical office field: Medical Insurance Coding and Reimbursement and Electronic Health Records Specialist.

They also will have the education and skill set required to sit for three national certifications: National Healthcareer Association Certified Billing and Coding Specialist, Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist and Microsoft Office Specialist.

These certificates and national certifications can springboard students to medical office careers such as coding, billing and insurance specialist; compliance specialist; electronic health records specialist; hospital unit coordinator; office manager and scheduler.

“Medical offices depend on health care administrators, those important people who are tasked with nonclinical patient care,” Buckley said.

The 27 hours of Career in a Calendar Year count toward Pellissippi State’s associate degree in Administrative Professional Technology as well. Those students who wish to go on to complete the associate degree can choose from traditional, online or accelerated classes.

The associate degree program also provides a built-in internship in a medical office setting to give students real-world experience before graduation.

The deadline to apply to Pellissippi State for spring 2020 is Jan. 13. Classes begin Jan. 21. To apply, visit www.pstcc.edu/admissions.

For more information about studying Medical Office at Pellissippi State, contact Regina Buckley at rbuckley@pstcc.edu or 865.694.6413.

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Pellissippi State microbiology students create intricate art using bacteria

Art in Petri dishes
Pellissippi State microbiology students created these and other designs using bacteria in the Strawberry Plains Campus lab.

Microbiology students on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains and Magnolia Avenue campuses have used the techniques they’ve learned in lab this semester to create agar art, also known as microbial art.

You can see this agar art displayed on the Strawberry Plains Campus, in a hall on the main level of the building.

Agar art is an active learning tool that presents the microbial community in an interesting way, explained microbiology instructor Zainab Ahmed, who is a microbiologist and virologist.

Students created artwork using agar – a gel-like substance used to grow bacteria in Petri dishes – as a canvas and bacteria as the paint. The kind of agar and bacteria used determines the color of the artwork students produced.

“The pigments are colorful evidence of bacteria’s morphology in their real habitat,” Ahmed noted. “This illustrates the beauty of these microorganisms in nature.”

The agar art was created solely on the Strawberry Plains Campus this semester, offered as extra credit in lab time outside of class. Microbiology students on any of Pellissippi State’s campuses were welcome to participate.

“Students all like it,” Ahmed said. “Some have asked to come back and participate again the next semester we offer it, and I have met with a high school biology teacher in Blount County who would like for us to promote Agar art for high school students in the future.”

This was the third time Ahmed has offered her microbiology students the opportunity to create agar art, but it’s the first time Strawberry Plains Campus Dean Mike North has invited Ahmed to display the students’ artwork on campus.

“I thought it was the coolest thing that was done with the outcome of the Agar art,” North said. “I love filling up the campus with art, and when it’s contributions from students, that’s even better. I want to support them. It’s educational, and it looks really really cool.”

Photos of the Petri dishes show everything from Christmas trees to a lizard to a map of North and South America – all formed by bacteria grown in the Strawberry Plains Campus microbiology lab.

“Students had the option of what they wanted to draw – they could use a stencil or choose something from the internet and draw it freehand,” Ahmed explained. “We have heard from other instructors and students that they like this agar art.”

Ahmed and microbiology technician Katherine Fullerton prepared the agar and cultured the bacteria, but students took it from there.

The bacteria students could choose to use produced pigments of red, blue, orange and green. While red, blue and orange pigments occur naturally in bacteria, some bacteria that appear white or tan on other agar present as green when grown on a different kind of agar.

Students also could choose how to transfer the bacteria to their Petri dishes – using a wire loop that had to be fired in a Bunsen burner, a toothpick or a fine paintbrush.

“This is a good opportunity for our microbiology students to use all the different tools in the lab and to feel free to experiment,” Ahmed said. “They get to use all the knowledge they’ve learned earlier in the semester, from lab safety to how to incubate the bacteria, and they get to see chemical reactions and how colonies of bacteria can change color.”

Ahmed’s agar art project was supported this semester by a grant from Pellissippi State’s Instructional Development Committee, which allowed Ahmed to purchase more agar and new bacteria. The grant will cover another semester of agar art, but Ahmed said she may wait until fall 2020 to offer the opportunity again, as it would give microbiology students a chance to enter their agar art into an international competition sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.

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Pellissippi State boasts record number of graduates this fall

Four spring 2019 grads at Pellissippi State commencement
Four spring 2019 Pellissippi State graduates take time to pose for a photo before Commencement.

Pellissippi State Community College will graduate a record number of students this month, with 580 graduates and at least 450 expected to walk in the Dec. 13 Commencement ceremony at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The number of December graduates has grown by more than 100, noted Manager of Records Terri L. Strader. Pellissippi State graduated 477 students in December 2018.

“We have summer graduates participating in December’s Commencement as well, and we had a record number of summer graduates, too,” Strader added. “In summer 2018, we had 217 graduates, and this summer we had 262.”

Commencement will begin at 7 p.m. Thompson-Boling adheres to a strict bag policy that everyone attending the ceremony should read before heading to the ceremony.

Assistant Professor Tracy Rees, winner of the Roger Crowe Excellence in Teaching Award for 2019, will be the Commencement speaker. She will address graduates about the role self-care plays in success, encouraging them to take care of themselves and to exercise their minds in new ways.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, call 865.539.7401 or email accommodations@pstcc.edu.

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Pellissippi State holds steady at No. 2 for number of community college students who study abroad

Students on a TnCIS trip
Pellissippi State ranks No. 2 in the nation for number of community college students who study abroad.

For the second year in a row, Pellissippi State Community College has ranked No. 2 in the nation among community colleges for its number of students who study abroad.

The 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released Nov. 18, notes that Pellissippi State sent 188 students to study abroad in academic year 2017-18, three more than the previous academic year.

Citrus College in Glendora, California, is the only community college that ranked higher than Pellissippi State, with 193 students studying abroad in 2017-18.

This is the eighth year in a row that Pellissippi State has appeared in the top 5 community colleges for study abroad participation.

“Study abroad is, without a doubt, the most impactful experience students have at community colleges,” said Tracey C. Bradley, executive director of the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, which serves all community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system. “While students who study abroad have higher GPAs, are more likely to get a job after graduation and, in some fields, earn a higher starting salary, we also know that the value of study abroad is profound in ways we can’t even measure.”

TnCIS, which is housed on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, offers more than 25 study abroad programs each year all over the world, many of them short-term programs designed specifically to suit the schedules of community college students. All programs are faculty led.

The 2019 Open Doors Report also shows that the number of international students in the United States set an all-time high in the 2018-19 academic year, the fourth consecutive year with more than 1 million international students. The total number of international students, 1,095,299, is a 0.05 percent increase over the previous academic year.

Tennessee colleges and universities had 9,267 international students enrolled in 2018-19, with an economic impact of nearly $350 million.

Pellissippi State had 116 international students during the 2018-19 academic year here on student visas from 35 countries, the highest among all Tennessee community colleges.

For more information about TnCIS, visit www.tncis.org or call 865.539.7279. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.

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Pellissippi State celebrates 45 years of serving the community with 45 Days of Giving

1974 faculty and staff of Pellissippi State in front of Division Street building
Pellissippi State Community College opened for classes at what is now the college’s Division Street Campus on Sept. 23, 1974. The college was named State Technical Institute at Knoxville,and it offered three associate degree programs, all in Engineering Technology.

It’s been 45 years since Pellissippi State Community College opened as State Technical Institute at Knoxville, with 45,000 square feet of floor space, to an inaugural headcount of 45 students.

Now the largest community college in Tennessee, with five campuses and 10,694 students, Pellissippi State is celebrating its 45th anniversary with 45 Days of Giving, a push to finish out Pellissippi State’s campaign to build two new buildings, expand its Media Technologies programs and support students financially.

“There will never be forests in the future if we don’t plant the seeds today,” said Ronni Chandler, a Pellissippi State alumna who serves on the college Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “This campaign is about doing our part to ensure that current and future students have the facilities and resources they need to be prepared to succeed and to lead.”

Pellissippi State launched the campaign Feb. 1, outlining a lofty goal of raising $10 million. So far the Foundation has reached 99% of that goal, and construction of the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus is underway.

The college expects to break ground on the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the Blount County Campus in spring 2020.

“Every part of this campaign — from the new buildings to the Student Opportunity Fund — will benefit our students,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr.

For example, the new 82,000-square-foot Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science will help Pellissippi State meet demands for classrooms and lab spaces that have increased due to the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect scholarships while the new 53,000-square-foot Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center will be used by Pellissippi State and Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville to help fill the area’s need for highly skilled, college-educated employees.

Pellissippi State’s Student Opportunity Fund also will benefit from the campaign. Created in 2018 to help break down the barriers that keep students from staying in school, the Student Opportunity Fund has provided a total of $55,115 in assistance to 153 students since its inception last year.

“Many people believe the cost of an education at Pellissippi State is now paid for by the state,” explained Campaign Chair Tom Ballard, who established the Student Opportunity Fund with his wife Diane and support from Marty Adler-Jasny and Norm and Ann Naylor. “That is true for things like tuition, but it doesn’t pay for incidentals or unexpected expenses for a student whose car breaks down or computer dies. Those are expenses that many of Pellissippi State’s students cannot absorb.”

To complete the campaign before the end of the calendar year, Pellissippi State is celebrating 45 Days of Giving. 45 Days of Giving will continue until Dec. 31 and will include Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3.

During these 45 days, Pellissippi State faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community are encouraged to donate to Pellissippi State at https://giving.pstcc.edu.

Five alumni champions – one for each decade the college has existed – are challenging their fellow alumni to see which decade’s alumni can raise the most for the campaign. Champions include Curt Maxey, Class of 1979; Randy Merritt, Class of 1989; Ronni Chandler, Class of 1994; J. Travis Howerton, Class of 2002; and Candace Viox, Class of 2013.

“After being out of the workforce for 13 years and college for 20 years, I enrolled in the culinary program at Pellissippi State,” said Viox, owner of Water into Wine Bistro and Lounge. “My experience and the many supporters I gained there led to the conception, and ultimately the success, of my restaurant in Farragut.”

Even those donors who didn’t graduate from Pellissippi State are welcome to indicate which decade they want their gift to join. The winning decade will be the theme of the campaign celebration.

To keep up with 45 Days of Giving and the friendly competition between the decades, be sure to follow Pellissippi State, Pellissippi State Foundation and Pellissippi State Alumni and Friends on Facebook. Facebook profile frames to support the campaign are available here.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.

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GIVE grants to help Pellissippi State expand information technology, construction and advanced manufacturing training

Instructor standing in Strawberry Plains Cyber Defense lab
Instructor Charles Nelson, standing, tells visitors about Pellissippi State’s new Cyber Defense lab on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus on Sept. 10, 2019.

Pellissippi State Community College has been awarded two Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) grants, Gov. Bill Lee announced Nov. 7.

The funding, $999,874 for Knox County initiatives and $998,416 for Blount County initiatives, will be used to address workforce needs: information technology careers in Knox County and construction and advanced manufacturing careers in Blount County.

“We are proud to work with the General Assembly to pass the GIVE initiative and expand career and technical education for Tennessee students,” Lee said in a press release last week. “These funds directly support our workforce development efforts in distressed and at-risk counties and are a key component of our strategy to prioritize rural Tennessee.”

Both the GIVE Knox County Career Collaborative and the GIVE Blount County Career Collaborative established by the grants will address:

  • barriers to education/training access, including a lack of understanding and awareness of viable career choices and training options for high-demand fields;
  • insufficient early postsecondary education and training opportunities;
  • insufficient student support services; and
  • misalignment between education and workforce needs.

“With the number of new jobs coming into Blount County specifically, we have to do everything we can as a college to help train the next generation workforce,” said Teri Brahams, executive director of Economic and Workforce Development at Pellissippi State and project manager for the GIVE Blount County Career Collaborative. “Engaging our students from middle school through high school and college is crucial, and helping them understand pathways to college and careers is one way to do that.”

In Knox County, the Career Collaborative will focus on increasing the number of students who enroll in and complete Information Technology-related degrees and certifications in Pellissippi State’s Computer Information Technology programs, which include concentrations in Cybersecurity, Networking, Programming and Systems Administration and Management.

The grant also will be used to boost enrollment in and completion of the Computer Information Technology Technical Support Specialist, IT Network Support Specialist, IT Network Security Specialist, IT Systems Support Specialist, and IT Systems Coordinator options at Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Knoxville (TCAT).

“Training a workforce that is not only skilled in computer technology but, perhaps more importantly, is able to adapt those skills as new technology emerges is vital to all of East Tennessee,” said Business and Computer Technology Dean Michael Wolfe of Pellissippi State, who is serving as project director for the GIVE Knox County Career Collaborative. “This grant will provide the support to help students in Knox County do just that. Working together, the grant partners will immerse students from middle school through college in work-based learning environments, develop innovative pathways that result in industry-recognized credentials and increase the number of potential employees that possess a college degree.”

In Blount County, the Career Collaborative will focus on increasing the number of students who enroll in and complete advanced manufacturing and construction-related degree and certifications in Pellissippi State’s Engineering Technology program, which includes concentrations in Manufacturing, Industrial Maintenance and Civil Engineering, as well as in Pellissippi State’s Electrical Engineering Technology program.

The grant also will be used to boost enrollment in and completion of the Industrial Maintenance/Mechatronics Technology, Pipefitting and Plumbing Technology, Industrial Electricity and HVAC Technician options at TCAT.

Pellissippi State chose to address information technology, construction and advanced manufacturing careers because these local industries are struggling to meet demand.

Tennessee employed 174,346 information technology workers in 2018, a gain of more than 3,797 jobs from the year before, according to a study by the Computer Technology Industry Association. Between 900 and 1,000 openings are projected in information technology in the Knoxville region between 2020 and 2026, according to data from Jobs4TN and the Tennessee School Boards Association District Data Dashboard.

“It is evident that the projected information technology workforce needs in the region are significant, and the enrollment and graduation rates for the related education and training programs are not sufficient to meet the projected needs,” Wolfe said, noting there have been only 26 graduates in the past three years from the four associate degree program concentrations at Pellissippi State that prepare students for positions as customer support specialists, programmers, data/computer systems analysts, cybersecurity analysts and systems engineers.

Meanwhile, the average age of Tennessee construction and manufacturing workers is 56, but only one worker is replaced for every four that retire, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. A Jobs4TN Area Profile projects that manufacturing and construction industries will post 2,650 openings in East Tennessee alone between 2016 and 2026.

“Unfortunately, interest in the pursuit of construction and manufacturing-related occupations has been on a steady decline,” Brahams explained. “Misperceptions about wages, career pathways and the elimination of many vocational programs with the push for students to obtain four-year degrees have compounded the problem. Young people are considering these occupations less frequently, and parents and counselors have become equally reluctant to discuss these career paths. As a result, supply and demand gaps widen.”

Among the major strategies Pellissippi State plans to employ to meet the goals of its GIVE Knox County and GIVE Blount County Career Collaboratives are

  • enhancing and expanding career pathway programs utilizing a stackable credentials approach;
  • developing and implementing a collaborative, meaningful and structured work-based learning continuum that begins in middle school and continues through completion of postsecondary credentials; and
  • expanding access to industry recognized certification preparation and testing.

“Local employers, all three Blount County school systems, the Blount Partnership and Pellissippi State have been working together to address the workforce needs of our community, and this grant will allow us to go to the next level with our efforts,” Brahams said.

In Knox County, Pellissippi State will continue to partner with the Knoxville Chamber, the East Tennessee Local Workforce Development Board, TCAT, Knox County Schools and multiple employers.

“We’ve worked together for years to identify and address regional workforce needs and skills gaps, but this grant brings new focus to expanding career pathways and implementing a structured continuum of work-based learning experiences in Knox County,” Wolfe said.

Click here for more information on the GIVE grants announced by Gov. Lee last week.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.

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Pellissippi State business students awarded first place in national entrepreneurship competition

Three Pellissippi State students and one professor holding ceremonial check for $1,000
Pellissippi State Associate Professor Mark Fuentes, third from left, congratulates students Catherine Taylor, Joe Bedford and Vanya Malmstead, who earned first prize in a national entrepreneurship competition in California, along with with classmate Jameisha Robinson (not pictured).

A team of four business students from Pellissippi State Community College took home first place in a national entrepreneurship competition last month for a new app that would make tutoring accessible to struggling high school students regardless of their ability to pay.

Catherine Taylor, Joe Bedford, Jameisha Robinson and Vanya Malmstead from Pellissippi State were awarded $1,000 by the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship for their business idea, the East Tennessee Tutor Network.

Meanwhile, a second Pellissippi State team – comprised of Jeannette Green, Angela Heaverlo, David Scott and Tabitha Uremovich – finished in the top 3 of the online competition for their business idea, Kids Tech, which would provide tablets with educational apps free of charge for students in first through third grades.

The teams, all students in Associate Professor Mark Fuentes’ Special Topics in Accounting class, were challenged to solve a problem in local education, but with a solution that could be expanded beyond their geographic area.

“Both teams completed business plans and created a brief presentation to pitch their business ideas,” Fuentes explained. “One team finished in the top 5 and competed at the conference by setting up an exhibition booth and giving a presentation on stage in front of a panel of judges who were once contestants on the ‘Shark Tank’ television program.

Taylor and Bedford pitched the East Tennessee Tutor Network at the competition in Newport Beach, California, on Oct. 15.

Bedford explained that the team first researched how many incoming college freshmen in Tennessee have to take remedial math and English courses. They learned that almost half of incoming college freshmen lack sufficient math skills to succeed in college while almost one-third lack sufficient English skills.

“Tutoring seemed like an obvious solution, yet there are many existing tutoring options already that have failed to solve the problem; why?” Bedford said. “We think it’s because existing options are too expensive, too difficult to access but, most importantly, fail to meet struggling high school students where they are and where they live, which we know all too well is on their phones and on their devices.”

The team decided, “What if we could combine Uber with FaceTime?”

“Shouldn’t getting a tutor be as easy as getting a ride with a ride share app?” Taylor asked. “Our app is that easy: tap the app, tap the subject and the learning begins.”

Bedford and Taylor then outlined their business plan for the East Tennessee Tutor Network, including how they would fund it and roll it out to East Tennessee high schools, starting with those identified by the Tennessee Board of Education as being in the bottom 5 percent in student success rates.

“We are passionate and excited about our solution, which uses the technology of today to provide an innovative, scalable and, yes, a disruptive solution to this serious problem,” Bedford said. “I chuckled when one of our morning presenters asked, ‘Are you ready for the Uber of education?’ Challenge accepted! It’s time to get ready. The future is here.”

The team is not sure yet how they will use the $1,000 prize money.

“To actually put the business ideas into action, they would need a significant amount of funding and time; there are also only so many weeks left in the semester,” Fuentes said. “We have been building in class on the ideas and business plans they created.”

The competition was sponsored by NAACE and the HP Foundation, and students said they learned a lot by participating in it – “leadership, teamwork and nobody can do anything by themselves,” Taylor said.

“If we didn’t divide up the project like we did, we wouldn’t have gotten this far,” she noted.

“We started here in the classroom with an idea, and it was incredible to turn it into something feasible and real,” Bedford added.

NACCE is a member organization of over 300 community colleges representing nearly 2,000 staff. Presidents, educators, administrators and center directors are focused on igniting entrepreneurship in their community and on their campus. For more information, visit www.nacce.com.

The HP Foundation invests in programs and provides technology solutions that meet learners where they are and take them where they want to go. For more information, visit www8.hp.com/us/en/hp-information/social-innovation/hp-foundation.html.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.

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