CELINA – Clay County High School (CCHS) students are getting the opportunity to gain high school and post-secondary credits in welding thanks to Gov. Bill Lee’s GIVE grant program.
CCHS and the Livingston campus of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) are collaborating on the $1 million grant, and classes are in their second year at CCHS, with a CCHS graduate as instructor.
“We’re thrilled to expand our partnership with Clay County High School through this welding grant,” said Dr. Myra West, TCAT-Livingston President.
The two schools already partner on several career technical education (CTE) dual-credit courses taught at both campuses, with students receiving high school and post-secondary credits on completion. CCHS students are bused for morning and afternoon classes at Livingston, and classes, including welding, are also taught at CCHS by TCAT instructors.
The Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) grant program will fund the program for three years, and officials from TCAT and CCHS are optimistic it will be continued after that.
Marshall Burch, a 2012 CCHS graduate, was hired by TCAT to be the instructor for the welding program, which will concentrate on high school students initially, with possible adult learner involvement later.
“I’m excited about returning home to teach at my alma mater and to be able to give back to the community I grew up in,” Burch said. “This will give several of our students an opportunity to head down a growing and well-paying career path.”
“Statistics show starting welders, depending on experience and certification, can expect to earn $16-17 an hour in the Upper Cumberland,” West said. “With two years of post-secondary education, which can be paid through the Tennessee Promise scholarship program, these people can start a nice-paying job with very little debt or no debt at all.”
West said the goal of the grant is to provide a steady supply of skilled workers to local and regional businesses and to help attract more industry to the county through these skilled workers.
“We’re thankful for our industry partners who have agreed to work with us on this grant program,” West said. “V & F Transformer, Honest Abe Log Homes and Stephens Manufacturing (in Tompkinsville, Ky.) are providing us with expert advice on industry welding needs and will also help our students with internships and job opportunities.”
“This is a great partnership between Clay County High School, TCAT, our local industry and so many other local groups,” said Teia Arms, CCHS principal.
“Not only will the welding program benefit our local students and our industry partners, but it should also enable us to keep more of our graduating class right here in Clay County as they begin their work careers,” Clay County CTE Director Kim Upton said.
“This should be a boost for overall economic development in Clay County,” said Clay County Schools Director Matt Eldridge. “It’s a win-win situation.”