TCAT recipient of $1M give grant

By Todd Herzog

Another major grant award will benefit Warren County students beginning in 2020.

TCAT-McMinnville will receive a $1 million GIVE grant (Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education) from the state of Tennessee. Coverage of the grant was provided on the front page of last Sunday’s Southern Standard, but I would like to provide additional details.

The Warren County High School CTE wing will now have the following approximate investments in equipment and facilities:

Mechatronics - $1 million

Machine shop technology - $1 million

Welding - $600,000

Robotics - $500,000

Culinary arts - $300,000

STEM trailers - $200,000

This is an extremely impressive commitment to the higher education and successful career development of our youth. This complements the equipment investments at TCAT at McMinnville, Motlow-McMinnville, and the Motlow Automation & Robotics Training Center.

There will be now almost $15 million involved with these higher education initiatives. This area truly has become a corridor of higher education. These developments will bring more jobs, industry recruits, more county wealth, and better quality of life. There is simply no other county in Tennessee with this resume.

The GIVE grant application was entitled “Machining in Warren County – Shaping Your Future” describing a TCAT-driven dual enrollment program at Warren County High School. Funds are expected to be released in December which will allow for this program being fully operational by August 2020 school start-up.

The high school CTE wing will now feature Mechatronics, robotics, welding, machine shop technology, culinary arts, and more. Students can take several higher education technology classes while in high school largely tuition free. These options truly offer springboards to excellent jobs and careers.

TCAT president Dr. Warren Laux, Director of Schools Bobby Cox, and CTE director Tracy Risinger had collaborated on bringing a machine shop technology program to WCHS. This had been in discussion for two years prior to 2019. This plan finally had been approved by late spring.

Dr. Laux approached me and the Business Roundtable Action Committee in early June about the Citizens for Progress Scholarship Fund being a funding agent for program start up for the initial students. While this was under consideration, Angela Regitko of the Tennessee ECD Department of Cookeville advised about the new GIVE grant program as being a possible funding solution.

The GIVE grant guidelines required that multiple partners be included – TCAT, WCHS, IDB, UCDD, and at least two industry partners. In Warren County’s instance, we had eight committed industry partners, as follows:

1. Boles Tool

2. Quality Mold Shop

3. DRIV Incorporated

4. Schmiede Corporation

5. McMinnville Workholding

6. Bouldin & Lawson

7. Newell Brands

8. Mtl Wrx, Inc.

Each of these companies executed a “Memo of Understanding” stating its formal support and intended plans to hire trained graduates on a continuing basis. Group meetings were conducted at Boles Tool, Bouldin & Lawson, and MtlWrx over July and early August. A group R&D questionnaire was conducted with this group to statistically profile their needs. WC video producer Joe Harvey then went on-site to each plant to create a video of support for the GIVE Grant.

Grant writer Lindsay Mills of the Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD) attended all meetings and put together the 150+ page document that was our application. The application included multiple videos, a detailed program budget, copy describing each budgeted item, a physical floor plan layout, a history of WC education progress, market data showing the need and demand for trained machinists and programmers, specific timetables of implementation, plans for program internships, letters of support from all parties, and all requested grant information. Lindsay and the UCDD did an outstanding job supporting this project.

BRAC congratulates TCAT, WC Schools, IDB, UCDD, and area industry for this grant success. Come August 2020, there will be CNC machine tools at WCHS!

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