Northeast, other Tennessee community colleges, establishing SkillsUSA chapters

Rick Wagner • Sep 13, 2017 at 9:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — SkillsUSA chapters will be established at all community colleges in Tennessee, starting with a Wednesday kickoff at Northeast State Community College, a similar event today (Thursday) at Walters State Community College in Morristown, one in Chattanooga Friday and then others across the Volunteer State.

The focus of the nonprofit career technical education group, which holds a national competition each year after regional and state competitions, is on personal skills, technical skills grounded in academics and workplace skills.

“We felt this organization could be integral to the community colleges as well” as the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATS), NSCC interim President James King said at Wednesday morning’s kickoff event at the school’s main campus in Blountville. “Northeast is the most comprehensive community college in the state.”

Tim Lawrence, executive director of the Leesburg, Va.-based SkillsUSA, also was on hand for the event, which included an information table for students as well as training for faculty, administration, staff, advisers and instructors. Lawrence said business and industry leaders often complain that graduates or certificate holders don’t have “soft skills” needed in the workplace.

 “That’s the focus of our program,” Lawrence said of work skills like teamwork, communications and leadership; and personal skills including integrity, work ethic and technical prowess.

King, who while interim president remains executive vice chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, said although the annual national SkillsUSA competition for high school and college students is the largest volunteer event for industry officials in the country, SkillsUSA is much more than just a holder of competitions. Before taking the vice chancellor’s position in May and the helm of Northeast July 1, he spent about 18 years as vice chancellor over TCATs, during which time he was chairman of the national SkillsUSA board, on which he still serves.

This year, King said, the TCATs across the state, a group that includes facilities in Elizabethton and Morristown, produced 12 national winners.

Among high school competitors, Sullivan Central took home a gold medal in the Chapter Display category. The three students who made the display and their sponsor, building trades instructor Lloyd “Sport” Putney, brought the display to the NSCC event.

Of those on the team, Jared Chappell, a freshman at NSCC, earned a one-year welding certificate in dual enrollment while at Central and is seeking a two-year business administration degree at NSCC, while Central seniors Jonathan Tyson and Hannah Ramsey will have another crack at winning a national SkillsUSA medal before they attend NSCC next year.

Ramsey is undecided on a career path, but Tyson plans to finish his dual enrollment for a welding certificate this academic year and then go to NSCC for his associate’s degree in welding and maybe go on to study business.

“It’s been a very big part of my high school,” Ramsey said. “I don’t work well at a desk. I want to be up and doing things and immersed.”

Chappell said Ramsey, who got involved in SkillsUSA as a sophomore, is an exception. He said most don’t get to compete or become heavily involved until they are juniors or seniors, so the NSCC chapter will give them a chance to continue in SkillsUSA in college.

“My students would come through and they would finally understand what I was teaching them about SkillsUSA” not long before graduation, Putney said. “Most of them come here.”

Central’s SkillsUSA program is holding its annual fundraising golf tournament Oct. 7 at Crockett’s Ridge Golf Course at a cost of $65 per player. For more information, contact Putney at (423) 502-0576.

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