Roane State, SL Tennessee join forces for apprenticeship program

Tyra Copas, state apprenticeship director, workforce services, talks to local employers and educators about Tennessee’s initiative to boost apprenticeship programs during a question-and-answer session at Roane State’s Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility.

ROCKWOOD – Roane State Community College is joining the state’s growing movement to better train new workers by sponsoring apprenticeship programs with area businesses and industries. The college is currently working with one of Anderson County’s biggest employers.

“We will be working with SL Tennessee and our Middle College students in mechatronics to develop programs of study and identify specific apprenticeship tasks,” said Kim Harris, the college’s director of workforce training and placement.

“We look forward to working closely with Roane State in starting the apprenticeship program,” said SL Tennessee Director Scott Laska. “We believe that this program will help solve our skills gap in our operation and provide meaningful career opportunities for the community.”

SL Tennessee, located in the Clinton Interstate 75 Industrial Park, manufactures automotive parts and is near Roane State’s Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility. The college’s classes in mechatronics – the engineering of electrical and mechanical systems – are offered there.

Those classes are also available to students in Roane State’s Middle College program – where high school students can take college courses and graduate from both Roane State and their high school at the same time.

Area educators and employers learned about various apprenticeship programs and opportunities during a recent meeting in the college’s Clinton facility. 

Two state experts in the field – Tennessee Department of Labor’s State Apprenticeship Director Tyra Copas and Tennessee Board of Regents’ Assistant Vice Chancellor of Community and Economic Development Nathan Garrett – answered questions about apprenticeship opportunities.

Garrett said the TBR’s venture into the initiative kicked off last August, and 12 Tennessee Colleges are now sponsors of registered apprenticeship programs.

An apprenticeship is a proven training program for recruiting, training and retaining talented workers. They are supervised, full-time positions with on-the-job training and job-related education.

Harris said officials want to offer apprenticeship opportunities to traditional students along with 16- and 17-year-old candidates. 

“We want to grow skilled workers,” Copas said.

Harris said Roane State’s sponsored apprenticeship program should be up and running within the next two months.

Sponsors have administrative duties for apprenticeship programs and track the participants’ progress. This allows the employer time to focus on training the new employee. For more information on how Roane State can partner with your business on apprenticeships, contact Kim Harris at (865) 882-4695.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Wartburg and Clinton.  

For more information, visit or call (865) 882-4554. 

Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at

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