Congratulations to NC3’s February 2023 School on the Rise, Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Morristown! A proud NC3 leadership school, TCAT Morristown has issued over 3,000 certifications to their students including Snap-on, Trane, and Festo! Since joining the NC3 network in 2014, TCAT has exceeded its goal of serving as a premier provider of workforce development for students in Tennessee.
Tim Solomon is an HVAC Instructor at TCAT Morristown and an NC3 Certified Master Instructor. He recalled his experience entering the field of education. Starting out as a student in the HVAC program at TCAT over three decades ago, Mr. Solomon earned his certification and began working in the service industry. Once one of his favorite teachers retired, he pursued the HVAC instructor position at TCAT.
Frederick Starnes is an Industrial Electrical Motor Control Instructor in TCAT’s Industrial Maintenance program. Mr. Starnes had a similar entrance to teaching, as he worked for a manufacturing company for several years. After taking advantage of the opportunity to further his education, he pursued a position as an instructor at TCAT. Ms. Cox was inspired to pursue a career in career and technical education as a result of her father’s work as a skilled automotive mechanic. Mr. Solomon described his experience as an instructor for TCAT:
“I could see the difference that this training could make in the lives of individuals whether it be an 18-year-old fresh out of high school or an employee who had been laid off from a job he had held for 30 years. Regardless of their situation, students needed guidance in preparing for a position in the workforce, and I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted them to benefit from my own experience.”
Mr. Solomon had a particularly special experience with one of his students who graduated from his HVAC program ten years ago. He described the student as asking him what it would take to succeed in this field as a contractor. Mr. Solomon discussed the typical work experience requirements to properly understand the HVAC industry. After gaining the work experience suggested, the student started his own company. Two years later, he called Mr. Solomon and thanked him for assisting with his journey in the beginning. He is now hiring Mr. Solomon’s graduates who are earning NC3 certifications.
Susanne Cox is the president of TCAT’s Morristown campus. President Cox is proud of the institution’s mission. Focused primarily on workforce development, TCAT Morristown values the chance to provide students with access to industry equipment through NC3. She explained the value of being a part of NC3’s network of schools:
“As industries invest in highly technical equipment, it is reassuring for them to know that an employee with an industry-recognized certification has demonstrated the ability to perform required tasks to operate that equipment. NC3 is a natural fit with TCAT’s mission. Both are flexible and willing to meet the needs of industries without sacrificing quality.”
TCAT Morristown provides competency-based training through high-quality traditional and distance learning methods. Upon completion of their programs, students qualify for competitive employment opportunities and job advancement. Mr. Solomon spoke of his students’ experiences with earning NC3 certifications.
“NC3’s industry certifications provide proof that, as an educator, I am teaching the skills that are needed in today’s workforce. Students are ready, willing, and able because we have the equipment required to successfully complete these tasks. They get a sense of accomplishment when they earn the certifications and are encouraged to keep going”.
In hopes of being desirable to potential employers, Mr. Starnes’s students are excited to earn as many certifications as possible related to their course of study. He strives to explain to less experienced students how important certifications are, as well as continuing their education to keep up with changes in the maintenance and electrical field. He spoke of his motivation to continue issuing NC3 certifications to TCAT’s students:
“Being an employee and supervisor in industry prior to becoming an instructor, I realize how important it is to stay informed and keep skills up to date with the fast-paced change and demands of current and emerging companies. NC3 certifications are useful to demonstrate to companies that an employee or potential employee has mastered specific skill sets.”
TCAT Morristown is proud of its recent accomplishments. Many students continue to graduate debt free, relieving a common burden experienced by post-secondary students. This institution strives to maintain high career placement among its graduates. Another recent accomplishment is the completion of their building project of an advanced manufacturing facility. This building currently houses welding, machine tool technology, and HVAC classes. TCAT students have the opportunity to participate in the SkillsUSA competitions, which has led to students earning state and national medals. Mr. Starnes mentioned the sense of pride that is evident in students after they realize they represent the best in their fields at national events.
Having been in the industry and as educators for many years, Mr. Solomon and Mr. Starnes are aware of the advantages of having multiple educational options after high school. They mentioned careers associated with career and technical education (CTE) can lead to high-paying jobs and great benefits. As the perception of CTE evolves throughout the U.S., Mr. Solomon and Mr. Starnes have noticed a change in how high school students are advised. For decades, students have been under the impression that pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher is the only way to have financial success. Mr. Solomon said,
“Technical education has received national recognition in recent years as people are beginning to see the benefits of CTE. Institutions are being provided with better facilities and up-to-date training that meets the current demands from industry. Employers want graduates with the technical skills to meet the requirements of their jobs. Consumers who want technicians to fix the equipment and appliances in their homes. Employers who require skilled employees have realized that training is more important than ever.”
TCAT Morristown provides high-quality educational opportunities with the help of local business partnerships. They are fortunate to have an active Institutional Advisory Committee composed of community and business leaders along with the administration of the college. This advisory committee discusses the local need relative to technical training and workforce development. TCAT’s local community business partners are supporting their technical education programs like never before. Their proven placement rates and completion rates reflect the success that their graduates have, and their local partners recognize the impact student success has on the local economy. Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, is one of TCAT’s largest supporters. Mr. Starne described Lee’s involvement in TCAT Morristown’s CTE programs,
“Governor Lee has a goal of adding 10,000 skilled workers per year. The City of Morristown along with the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce work tirelessly to make sure area schools have what is needed for quality training. They work to recruit new industries to locate in our service area”.
Mr. Starnes and Mr. Solomon have participated in NC3’s Train-the-Trainer events for several years. Mr. Starnes referred to NC3 as a vital tool for instructors to gain knowledge and teaching methods to pass along to future students. Mr. Solomon enjoys his position as a Master Instructor for NC3, and thanks NC3’s team members for their support. He said,
“Dominic is doing a fantastic job keeping me informed and helping us to set up our Train-the-Trainer classes coming up in April. Haley Lechner is always available along with Erika Staackmann and Spencer Murrary. They answer any questions and direct me in making training successful for our students.”
Success is common at TCAT Morristown. President Cox looks forward to continuing to provide students with the ability to earn any applicable industry certifications to help them become more employable in the workforce. Mr. Solomon and Mr. Starnes are excited to attend future Train-the-Trainer events, such as the new Copeland classes offered through NC3. Congratulations to TCAT Morristown on their continued success! NC3 is pleased to be an essential part of their journey through providing high-quality career and technical education.
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Stay tuned for our next School on the Rise recipient in March 2023!
Questions about NC3’s School on the Rise? Please contact Erika Staackmann, Customer Success Coordinator, 847.533.6985, Erika.Staackmann@nc3.net