Overstreet named State Star by Tennessee Small Business Development Center network

Laura Overstreet headshot
Under Laura Overstreet’s leadership, the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Knoxville assisted clients with $11.3 million in federal disaster assistance in 2020 and $15.3 million in federal disaster assistance in 2021, to date. The Center also assisted in retaining 1,348 jobs in 2020 and 847 jobs in 2021 so far.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Laura Overstreet, director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Knoxville, has received the state’s highest honor from her peers and was celebrated this week at America’s Small Business Development Center’s annual conference. 

The State Stars, who were chosen by their SBDC networks, are among the best of the best – those who demonstrate exemplary performance, make significant contributions to their networks and are deeply committed to the success of America’s small businesses. 

“I am honored, but it takes a team,” Overstreet said. “I depend on them heavily, and they are fantastic. You have to have a very well-oiled machine to pull off what we pulled off this last year.” 

The Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Knoxville is hosted by Pellissippi State, although its office is located in Market Square. Overstreet joined the Center in 2013 as a business specialist, after owning and operating her own retail business for 17 years. 

“I opened the first legal liquor store in the town that temperance built,” Overstreet explained, referring to Harriman, Tennessee. “I was a self-made entrepreneur. I went from zero sales to $2.5 million at peak. I went from leasing a space to owning a shopping center.” 

Along the way, Overstreet received the Athena Leadership Award and the Sam Walton Business Leader Award and served on several community boards, including chairing the capital campaign to restore the historic Roane County Courthouse.  

Overstreet sold her business in 2010, but found her retirement to be premature, she said. A job posting for the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Knoxville piqued her interest. 

“I thought, ‘Isn’t that the perfect thing for me to do?’ because I received so much help from the community when I started my business,” she said. “It sounded like the perfect opportunity to give back.” 

America’s nationwide network of Small Business Development Centers provide one-on-one consulting and training services to new and existing businesses, “at no cost to clients for the life of the business,” Overstreet noted. The SBDCs are funded in part by the U.S. Congress through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Pellissippi State provides the rest of the funding for the Knoxville Center. 

Since joining the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Knoxville, which serves seven counties, Overstreet has assisted small businesses in generating over $29 million in capital formation and has helped 85 entrepreneurs start a business. She has earned her Certified Export Specialist designation as well as her Certified Global Business Professional designation, which allowed her to represent Tennessee’s marine equipment manufacturing industry at an international trade show in Amsterdam two years in a row, pre-pandemic. 

“95% of the market for marine equipment is international,” she explained. “We just happen to have a lot of marine equipment manufacturers in Tennessee, and this helped them get leads all over the world.” 

When the coronavirus pandemic hit East Tennessee, Overstreet and her two staff members shifted to “100 percent disaster relief,” she said, helping clients navigate the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the Shuttered Venues Operations Act, the Restaurant Recovery Fund and more. 

“Our phones rang and rang and rang, seven days a week,” Overstreet remembered. “It was heart-wrenching. The rules for everything were changing constantly. Changes would come out every night around midnight. I felt like I read the Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover. The three of us worked seven days a week from March (2020) through June (2020).” 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, allowed Overstreet to hire nine part-time consultants, which she called “a huge relief to the team.”  

Under Overstreet’s leadership, the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Knoxville assisted clients with $11.3 million in federal disaster assistance in 2020 and $15.3 million in federal disaster assistance in 2021, to date. The Center also assisted in retaining 1,348 jobs in 2020 and 847 jobs in 2021 so far. 

“Our work during the pandemic has been rewarding, but really hard,” Overstreet said. “It was emotionally taxing, but we couldn’t not answer the phones. We had to help.” 

In nominating Overstreet for the award, Overstreet’s team recognized her dedication and commitment to her community, witnessing her expertise, professionalism and willingness to learn in an effort to serve more individuals. 

“Pellissippi State, the TSBDC network and our clients are very fortunate to have someone of Laura’s caliber leading our Center,” said Teri Brahams, executive director of Economic and Workforce Development for Pellissippi State. “She’s a great advocate for our area’s small businesses, an extremely competent business advisor and an exceptional leader. I’m extremely pleased she is part of my team.” 

For more information about the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Knoxville, visit www.tsbdc.org/pscc/ or call 865-246-2663. While the Center is located in Market Square, staff meet clients one day each week at the Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce and at the Blount County Chamber of Commerce and one day each month at the Cocke County Chamber of Commerce. 

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Pellissippi State addresses community’s COVID-19 job losses with free training program

Student in Electrical Engineering TechnologyPellissippi State Community College is launching a free, noncredit training program designed for individuals whose finances or job outlook were negatively impacted by COVID-19.  

The two-part Reimagine Your Career program is for anyone who, at any time since March 2020, has been let go from a job, laid off permanently or temporarily, experienced a reduction in hours or wages, or has had to take a new job that pays less, due to the pandemic. 

Reimagine Your Career features foundational career skills as well as career-specific training. Participants choose the career track they’d like to pursue from options such as customer service, information technology and manufacturing. 

“We focused on career tracks that had the greatest need in the Knoxville area and tracks that would allow someone to fully complete the training and earn an industry-recognized credential in a fairly short amount of time,” said Teri Brahams, executive director of economic and workforce development for Pellissippi State. 

Pellissippi State has partnered with over a dozen local businesses that are actively hiring positions within each Reimagine Your Career track, including Keurig Dr Pepper, Avero Advisors, Timken, Flowers Foods and more. At the end of the program, participants are guaranteed an interview with at least one of the partnering businesses. 

“This is a great opportunity for both the individuals in our community that were impacted negatively from the pandemic and for the businesses that make up our local economy,” Brahams said. “There are people who are seeking a meaningful career path and financial stability, and there are businesses that need people with certain skillsets to fill their open positions. It’s a win-win situation we’re helping provide.” 

students in electrical engineering technology in 2020While the Reimagine Your Career program is provided at no cost to the participants, there is an investment of time. The career foundations training is a 36-hour commitment, while the training in specific career tracks vary from 36 to 140 hours. 

“We know that people are often juggling multiple responsibilities from parenting to working part-time or full-time jobs to taking care of family members, so it was important to us to offer several options,” Brahams said.  

Fall sessions are scheduled at the following times and locations:  

  • Tuesdays & Thursdays, Sept. 7-Oct. 14, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Blount County Campus 
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays, Sept. 7-Oct. 14, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Hardin Valley Campus 
  • Wednesdays & Fridays, Sept. 8-Oct. 8, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Magnolia Avenue Campus 
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays, Nov. 2-Dec. 14, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Blount County Campus 
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays, Nov. 2-Dec. 14, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Hardin Valley Campus 
  • Wednesdays & Fridays, Nov. 10-Dec. 10, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Magnolia Avenue Campus

For more information or to apply for the Reimagine Your Career program, visit www.pstcc.edu/reimagine or call Business and Community Services at 865-539-7167. 

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Pellissippi State hosts Remake Learning Day on May 22 with DENSO, ORNL, more

Brian Davis of Danny Davis Electric, right, shows students how to run electrical wire at Pellissippi State's Blount County Campus
Brian Davis, right, of Danny Davis Electric shows students how to run electrical wire at Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus during a spring break exploration camp in 2021. The Blount County Campus will host a free Remake Learning Day on May 22 for children and their parents to explore career readiness, science, technology and construction.

After a challenging year for education, Remake Learning Days Across America returns this spring in more than 17 regions, with family-friendly learning events designed to engage caregivers, parents and children around the country.  

Remake Learning Day in Blount County will take place 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at Pellissippi State Community College’s Blount County Campus2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Friendsville.

This free, in-person event is designed for parents and caregivers to learn alongside their kids and offer relevant and engaging educational experiences for youth (pre-K through high school).  Remake Learning Day is an interactive fair designed to help develop kids’ sense of creativity and curiosity.

This year’s event highlights the learning themes of career readiness, science, technology and construction. Some of the local businesses and organizations involved include DENSO, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Home Depot and Pellissippi State 

For more information, contact Joy McCamey at jlmccamey@pstcc.edu or visit https://remakelearningdays.org/knoxville 

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Remake Learning Days Across America is led by Remake Learning, a network that ignites engaging, relevant and equitable learning practices in support of young people navigating rapid social and technological change. National partners of RLDAA include PBS Kids, Digital Promise, Common Sense Media, Learning Heroes and Noggin. RLDAA is generously supported by The Grable Foundation, The Hewlett Foundation, Schmidt Futures and Carnegie Corporation of New York. Visit remakelearning.org for more information or follow RL on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For more information specifically on Remake Learning Days Across America, visit remakelearningdays.org or follow RLDAA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the hashtag #RemakeDays. 

National report highlights Knoxville gluten-free bakery assisted by Tennessee Small Business Development Center

Lynette Casazza started a gluten free bakery from her home kitchen in 2015, after two of her children were diagnosed with a health condition requiring a gluten free diet.
Lynette Casazza of Mama C’s Gluten Free Goodies started a gluten-free bakery from her home kitchen in 2015, after two of her children were diagnosed with a health condition requiring a gluten-free diet. She now has a storefront in South Knoxville.

Mama C’s Gluten Free Goodies, a client of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center that is hosted by Pellissippi State, is highlighted in a new national report launched last week. 

“In these challenging times, America’s Small Business Development Centers play a critical role in assuring the health of small businesses: helping them access capital needed for growth, navigating the uncertainty of the market, providing advice on compliance with government regulations, and being first responders when natural disaster requires intensive and long-term consulting,” according to a press release announcing the new national report. 

Mama C’s is included as an example of a SBDC client that is helping an underserved community. You can find Mama C’s highlighted in the Tennessee section of the report. 

Lynette Casazza started a gluten-free bakery from her home kitchen in 2015, after two of her children were diagnosed with a health condition requiring a gluten-free diet. She began baking and selling her gluten-free goodies — including dairy-free and nut-free items — at local farmers’ markets and expanded to a storefront in South Knoxville in 2019. 

“Lynette has been a client of the center since the start of the bakery,” explained TSBDC Director Laura Overstreet. “TSBDC staff provided start-up assistance and continued to assist Lynnette, resulting in the expansion of Mama C’s to a storefront location. With this expansion, Lynette needed help navigating the process of hiring new employees and setting up payroll in Quickbooks.” 

TSBDC was able to provide that assistance. Casazza is now successfully processing payroll through QuickBooks and handling her own bookkeeping, and her bakery added four jobs as a result of the expansion. 

“It has been wonderful working with the TSBDC and (Senior Business Specialist) Teresa Sylvia,” Casazza said. “She has played a vital role in helping me put together a business plan and executing it to make my dreams come true. When situations have arrived that I’ve needed help with, the TSBDC have always been there to help me through it. Thanks to TSBDC Mama C’s Gluten Free Goodies has met a great need in South Knoxville.” 

TSBDC provides services at no cost for small business owners and potential entrepreneurs. The Knoxville office offers workshops and private consultations ranging from business plan development, government contracting, marketing assistance and financial planning for new and existing small businesses. 

Even as the pandemic engulfed East Tennessee, the TSBDC served 984 unique clients in 2020, delivering 1,134 hours of counseling and providing training to 1,147 participants. TSBDC also assisted clients in securing over $11 million in disaster loans. 

“TSBDC is a powerful resource for our local small businesses to grow and thrive, all at no cost,” said Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State’s executive director, Economic and Workforce Development. 

For more information on the TSBDC, visit www.tsbdc.org/pscc/.  For more information on Mama C’s, visit www.mamacsglutenfree.com

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Make holiday gifts, décor in Pellissippi State’s lifelong learning classes

Carolyn Hahs Fogelman cuts glass for holiday pendants
Carolyn Hahs Fogelman cuts glass for pendants similar to those she will teach students to make in The Art of Glass Fusion class this fall.

The holidays are just around the corner, and whether you’re looking for unique décor for your home or wanting to make one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones, Pellissippi State Community College has lifelong learning classes that can help you channel your inner artist. 

Check out these upcoming noncredit classes that are open to the community. For more festive fun, enjoy the experience of taking a lifelong learning class with a friend or family member.  

Deborah Kelly’s Paper Quilling class teaches students how to use thin strips of paper that are rolled into coils to create shapes that are then glued and arranged to create elaborate designs and images. Finished pieces can be used to decorate cards, gift bags and boxes, and picture frames — or even can be turned into jewelry or ornaments. 

  • Paper Quilling: Mondays, Oct. 19-Nov. 16, 6-7:30 p.m. 

Bob Ross-Certified Instructor Bram Bevins will teach students how to use Ross’ wet-on-wet painting method, which allows the painter to complete a painting in a short amount of time. 

  • Bob Ross Style Painting, Harvest Moon: Wednesday, Oct. 21, 6-9 p.m. 
  • Bob Ross Style Painting, Snowman Wonder: Wednesday, Dec. 2, 6-9 p.m.

Students in floral designer Lori Wilson’s classes will create their own floral arrangement using seasonal, fresh flowers and learn how to care for flowers at home to achieve long-lasting freshness: 

  • Introduction to Floral Design, Fall Arrangement: Tuesday, Oct. 27, 6:15-8:15 p.m. 
  • Introduction to Floral Design, Winter Arrangement: Tuesday, Dec. 1, 6:15-8:15 p.m. 
Glass pendants made by Carolyn Hahs Fogelman
These colorful pendants are examples of the accessories students will learn how to make and assemble in The Art of Glass Fusion.

Oak Ridge native Carolyn Hahs Fogelman is teaching two classes that are perfect for making handmade gifts. In The Art of Glass Fusion, students will learn how to cut and assemble decorative glass pendants that can be turned into jewelry or used as keychains, magnets and other accessories. In her new class, Traditional Dorset Button Making, students will create two styles of embroidered buttons that can be used for hair accessories, jewelry, quilt accents and more. 

  • The Art of Glass Fusion: Tuesdays, Oct. 27-Nov. 17, 6-8:30 p.m. 
  • Traditional Dorset Button Making: Tuesdays, Dec. 1-8, 6-9 p.m. 

Amy Broady, local art educator and certified Zentangle instructor, can help you add a personal touch to your home décor. In Zen Bells, students will learn how to draw using the Zentangle method while creating three-sided hanging paper bells that make unique holiday ornaments and garlands 

  • Zen Bells: Saturday, Nov. 21, 1-5 p.m. 

These holiday-inspired lifelong learning classes are taught on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, masks or face coverings must be worn by all instructors and students, and classes are being held in larger classrooms to ensure that participants can maintain 6 feet of distance between each other.  

Prices for lifelong learning classes vary. To register for a lifelong learning class, contact Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services office at 8655397167 or visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs.  

For a sneak peek of what to expect, join our lifelong learning class instructors for demonstrations on Facebook Live at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 14. Tune in at facebook.com/pellissippi/live. 

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Pellissippi State hosts webinar series on digital storytelling

Steve Crescenzo
Steve Crescenzo is the first keynote speaker for Pellissippi State’s upcoming webinar series on digital storytelling.

The Pellissippi State Community College Media Technologies program will host a free, three-part continuing education webinar series titled “The Art, Science & Impact of Digital Storytelling” beginning Wednesday, Oct. 21,  with other sessions scheduled for Dec. 1 and Jan. 22, 2021. 

Each session will take place 12:30-2 p.m. Eastern over Zoom. Registration is open now for professionals, faculty, students and alumni in digital, creative and strategic communications communities from East Tennessee, as well as from thought leaders in these areas across the country. 

This webinar series takes the place of the half-day digital storytelling forum that was planned for April 24 and postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Our team of supporters for Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program and the Bagwell Center for Media and Art are excited to welcome the creative and strategic communications community to join us for learning, sharing and networking opportunities, as we interact with leaders who represent such important voices of our industry’s workforce pipeline,” said Mary Beth West, volunteer chair of Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies development campaign. 

This webinar series sponsored by The HiveBagwell Entertainment and Jupiter Entertainment 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. 

Session 1 on Oct. 21Crafting Digital Messages that Motivate Audiences to Action, will feature a keynote address by Steve Crescenzo of Crescenzo Communications, who has been voted the No. 1 speaker from the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference seven times. 

Shel Holtz of Webcor will moderate a panel including Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO at Pure Performance; Damon Rawls, founder of Damon Rawls Consulting Group; and Scott Monty, former chief of global digital communications at Ford Motor Co.  

Speaker biographies are available on the webinar series website. 

Session 1 will focus on the essence and purpose of strategic communications and digital engagement and will explore questions such as: 

  • How much is the medium still (or even more so) the message in the digital age?  
  • How should strategies and tactics change as digital innovation accelerates and saturates?  
  • Is understanding your audience more important as you aim to earn trust for your business, sell products/services to customers or persuade people to your cause – and how can authentic connections be achieved during the disruption of the COVID-19 Age? 

There is no cost for the webinar series. The webinars highlight 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. 

For more information on this webinar series, including future topics, speaker bios or to register, visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs/mediatech. 

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Take a virtual music class with Pellissippi State’s lifelong learning program

Anna Uptain with musical instruments
Anna Uptain is teaching virtual classes in guitar, mandolin, ukulele and banjo this fall.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Business and Community Services is offering virtual music classes this fall. These noncredit classes are open to the public. 

In late March, when the college moved to remote instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic, several lifelong learning classes were impacted, shifting from in person to virtual meetingsNearly half of Pellissippi State’s lifelong learning classes this fall will continue to be offered virtually.  

“It was important for us to continue offering opportunities for the community to learn and connect,” said Nancy Corumprogram coordinator with Business and Community Services. “By going virtual with as many classes as possible, we’ve been able to help provide a small sense of normalcy and allow people to still experience that human connection during the last few months. We’ve had many instructors and students really welcome the new virtual environment. 

Anna Uptain is one of Pellissippi State’s lifelong learning instructors who has embraced the opportunity to teach virtually. While Uptain had taught virtual private lessons prior to this year, teaching group classes over the computer has been a new experience.  

Uptain is teaching six virtual classes this fall: 

  • Beginner Ukulele: Tuesdays, Sept. 8-Oct. 13 
  • Advanced Ukulele: Tuesdays, Oct. 20-Dec. 1 
  • Beginner Guitar: Thursdays, Oct. 22-Dec. 3 
  • Not Your Traditional Guitar: Thursdays, Sept. 10-Oct. 15 
  • Dueling Banjos: Wednesdays, Oct. 21-Dec. 2 
  • Quick Pickin’ Mandolin: Wednesdays, Sept. 9-Oct. 14 

“I like teaching virtually,” said Uptain, who has been teaching classes at Pellissippi State for almost 20 years. There’s no travel and you can be in the comfort of your own home. If you want to wear your lounge pants and t-shirt, you can.”  

Uptain‘s classes are designed to help people learn quickly. Knowing time is a luxury when juggling work and other responsibilities, her classes meet one night a week for six weeks. 

On the first night of every class, I introduce myself and I tell students, You will go home playing tonight. And they look at me like I’m joking,” Uptain said“My goal when I created the classes was to get people up and playing as quickly as possible and have success with it. 

The key to taking a virtual class, Uptain said, is to come into the class with an excitement and willingness to learn.  

“Don’t be afraid of the computer. One of the nicest things about virtual classes is there’s nobody else there to hear you if you mess up,” she said. “Everyone is starting in the same place.  

Uptain’s classes are open to ages 13 and older. You do not need to know how to read music or have any musical background or experience. 

Other lifelong learning classes being offered virtually this fall include: 

  • Dulcimer 
  • Digital Photography 
  • Book Writing 
  • Health & Wellness 
  • For the Love of Gems & Jewelry with JTV 
  • Professional development classes, like Solidworks, FANUC, leadership 

Lifelong learning classes that are being taught in person are following new safety precautions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Masks or face coverings must be worn by all instructors and students, and classes also are being held in larger classrooms to ensure that participants can maintain 6 feet of distance between each other. 

Registration for fall classes is open now. To register for a virtual music class or any other Pellissippi State lifelong learning class this fall, contact the Business and Community Services office at 865.539.7167 or visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs. 

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Pellissippi State sponsors Tool and Die Maker apprenticeship program with Newell Brands

Newell Brands apprentices
Newell Brands employees Kyle Sanchez, left, and Seth Hartley will receive their Journeyman Tool and Die Maker certifications upon successful completion of their apprenticeships, which are sponsored by Pellissippi State.

Pellissippi State Community College is making it easier for area businesses to start apprenticeship programs for new and current employees. 

Newell Brandslocated in Maryville, kicked off a new apprenticeship program this summer, with Pellissippi State as the sponsor. While Pellissippi State has been supporting apprenticeships with area businesses for years, this is the first time the college is sponsoring a program.   

“Newell Brands has been a longstanding partner for whom we provide training,” said Todd Evans, director of workforce solutions at Pellissippi State. “This apprenticeship program allows us to continue supporting their long-term goals of having employees with the skills necessary to do their job well.” 

Newell Brands’ expansion of its tool room and molding department this year created a need for additional tool and die makers at the company. It became clear to Newell Brands’ leaders that training and promoting current employees within the department was the right move to make to fill those positions. 

This position is one that is becoming more and more difficult to find qualified journeyman workers to fill,” said Aaron Myers, tool room supervisor at Newell Brands. We decided to partner with Pellissippi State and their new Tool and Die Maker apprenticeship program. We all believe that one of the best ways to cultivate a positive culture is to promote from within.” 

An apprenticeship program is a multi-year investment, with the amount of time invested dependent upon occupation, model and whether apprentices receive credit for the education and experience they already have. Apprentices must complete 144 hours of instructional training and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training each year of their apprenticeship, which is the same as apprentices working full time for their employer, year-round. 

Newell Brands had two employees start the apprenticeship program this summer, Seth Hartley and Kyle Sanchez. They will receive their Journeyman Tool and Die Maker certifications upon successful completion of their apprenticeships. 

Pellissippi State’s role and involvement as the apprenticeship sponsor can vary program to program, but includes working with the employer to provide administrative support and documentation with the U.S. Department of Labor, organizing the educational component and curriculum of the apprenticeship, and providing training for mentors. 

I think there is a growing recognition that training a modern workforce requires flexibility, and apprenticeship models allow for that,” Evans noted. “It’s the part we are most excited about.” 

Training can include a combination of online and in-person classes, allowing the apprentices the flexibility to learn on their own time. Most of the educational training for Newell Brands’ apprentices will be delivered online. Portions of the training also can apply toward an associate degree if the apprentice is interested in pursuing one. 

Pellissippi State has developed a streamlined class structure ensuring classes are to the point and have value in the information they provide,” Myers said. “Under the new program, we have the ability to tailor the curriculum by removing or adding any classes that we feel would benefit students during their apprenticeship program. 

For more information about starting an apprenticeship program, contact Todd Evansdirector of workforce solutions, at jtevans@pstcc.edu or call 865.539.7167. 

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Pellissippi State graduate teaches new Welding for Artists class this summer

Liz Headrick welds an artwork
Liz Headrick, owner of Fabuliz Fabrication and Welding, will teach a one-day Welding for Artists noncredit course twice this month at Pellissippi State Community College.

Pellissippi State Business and Community Services is offering a new Welding for Artists class this summer, taught by a graduate who used her Welding Technology degree to start a creative business. 

Liz Headrick, Class of 2017, is teaching the noncredit Welding for Artists twice this summer: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, July 18, and Saturday, July 25, at Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus, 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike, Knoxville. 

As a lifelong learning class, Welding for Artists iopen to the public, though some welding knowledge and beginner experience is recommended. The cost is $89. 

“I hope people taking the class will get a cool experience and the opportunity to create something they never would have thought about previously or never had the equipment to make,” Headrick said. “Everyone will get to create a one-of-a-kind piece they can take home and show off.” 

Headrick discovered her interest in welding at just the right time. Shortly after taking a welding class at a community college in California, Headrick moved to Knoxville and enrolled in the newly formed Welding Technology program at Pellissippi State. 

“My husband bought me a welder as a graduation present,” Headrick noted. “At first, I didn’t have anything that needed welding, so I just took random nuts and bolts lying around the garage as an excuse to do something with it, and it stuck.” 

When Headrick began posting photos of her work on Facebook and Instagram three years ago, people started to reach out to her, wanting her to make custom pieces for them. That’s when Headrick’s businessFabuliz Fabrication and Welding, took off. 

“It’s almost to the point now where my full-time job gets in the way of being at home making creative pieces,” she joked. 

Artwork by Liz Headrick
Pellissippi State Welding Technology graduate Liz Headrick makes art from repurposed materials.

Using recycled scrap metal has always been a part of Headrick’s work. She repurposes materials — nuts and bolts, old saw blades, chains, spark plugs and more — to create one-of-a-kind metal art and décor. 

“I like finding materials that people were throwing away or are considered as junk and using those materials to make something interesting or something you wouldn’t have thought to use it for,” Headrick said. “People throw away so much! I’m able to find a lot of materials from yard sales and eBay.” 

To register for Welding for Artists or any other Pellissippi State lifelong learning classes this summer, contact the Business and Community Services office at 865.539.7167 or visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs 

Lifelong learning classes are following new safety precautions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Masks or face coverings must be worn by all instructors and students for the duration of the class. Classes also are being held in larger classrooms to ensure that participants can maintain 6 feet of distance between each other. 

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Pellissippi State creates protective face shields for Covenant Health

Employees assemble face shields in the Strawberry Plains Campus MegaLab
MegaLab Director Andy Polnicki, left, and Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffer, right, clean and package face shield kits for Covenant Health. Each kit contains one 3D-printed headband, two overhead transparencies, two elastics and a set of assembly instructions.

Pellissippi State Community College has produced its first 200 transparent plastic face shields for Covenant Health, building on an earlier project that provided personal protective equipment to health care facilities throughout Tennessee. 

Once we finished our responsibility to the statewide effort spearheaded by Gov. Bill Lee, I suggested we reach out to our friends in health care to see if they also had a need for personal protective equipment,” explained Teri Brahams, executive director for economic and workforce development for Pellissippi State. “It was great to offer assistance at the state level, but as a community college, it is great to be able to impact our local community as well.” 

Covenant Health responded to Pellissippi State’s offer, requesting 2,000 face shields that health care professionals can wear over their masks to help protect them from infectious diseases such as Covid-19. 

Moving from 3D-printing only the headbands for the face shields to producing the entire face shields took collaboration between Covenant Health’s Emily Sinkule and Pellissippi State’s Andy Polnicki, director of the MegaLab on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus. The two worked together to find a prototype Pellissippi State could produce with the supplies the college already had on hand or could find quickly, as “a lot of these items are difficult to get (due to the pandemic),” Polnicki explained. 

Pellissippi State got creative, repurposing transparencies for overhead projectors as plastic for the face shields. 

“We found about 500 usable transparencies,” Polnicki said. “We ordered more as well.” 

Pellissippi State also needed to produce face shields that Covenant Health couleasily store and pull out of inventory as neededPolnicki added. That meant coming up with kits that could be stacked on shelves and assembled by health care professionals on site. 

A Pellissippi State employee hands off a box of face shield kits to an Covenant Health employee
Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffer, left, delivers face shields to Covenant Health employee Cody Leach, right. Pellissippi State produced its first 200 transparent plastic face shields for Covenant Health, building on an earlier project that provided personal protective equipment to health care facilities throughout Tennessee.

Polnicki and Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffera former Knox County Schools educator who is now studying Electrical Engineering Technology, worked together in the MegaLab, printing about 50 headbands each day. Staff from Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services chipped in by helping clean the headbands before packaging them with the other raw materials. 

Pellissippi State finished printing and packaging the first 200 face shield kits for Covenant Health last week. Each kit includes one 3D-printed headband, two overhead transparencies, two elastics and a set of instructions for how to assemble the components into a face shield. 

Even masked and gloved, the shields can be assembled and donned by health care professionals in less than a minute, Polnicki demonstrated, wearing a mask and gloves himself. Two plastic shields and two elastics were included in each kit so that those opening the kits have a backup should one of components become contaminated, he noted. 

Pellissippi State now will turn its attention to creating similar packets for the college’s Nursing students to use in labs this summer and fall, but then will resume fulfilling Covenant Health’s order of 2,000 face shields, as health care facilities prepare for whatever the coronavirus pandemic may bring this fall. 

“This is still a large project, but we are not under the same deadlines (as when the pandemic started),” Polnicki explained. “We have our 3D printers running at half capacity, which allows us to make about 250 headbands for face shields each week, but we could ramp up to full capacity if we need to. 

A representative from Covenant Health picked up the first 200 masks Thursday, May 21. 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. 

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