By James Clark
Warren County High School will have one of the top machine shops in all of Tennessee after receiving a $1 million state grant announced Thursday by Gov. Bill Lee.
The $1 million grant is part of $25 million the governor awarded through a program called GIVE, or the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education.
“The big thing is we’re continuing to work with our business community to develop programs to meet their needs,” said Director of Schools Bobby Cox. “We want to provide our kids with skills they need so they can get good jobs right here in our community.”
The grant was awarded through the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in McMinnville and the Upper Cumberland Development District. The local Business Roundtable Action Committee spearheaded by Todd Herzog played a large role.
“Our future is coming through the high school and this grant is an indication of how everyone in the community came together for a collaborative effort,” said Dr. Warren Laux, president of TCAT-McMinnville.
Cox said Herzog and Terry Boles at Boles Tools are among the business leaders to provide key input into the skills needed in today’s industrial workforce. Yorozu officials have expressed the need for a machine tool program at the high school in the past.
WCHS launched a small machine tool program this year by using surplus equipment provided by TCAT. The program has about a dozen students.
The $1 million grant will allow WCHS students to receive training on the latest and best machine equipment available today. The goal is for the new lab to be fully operational by the start of school in August 2020.
“This is huge for Warren County,” said Randy England, who teaches machine tool technology at TCAT. “This will give us one of the best machine tool shops anywhere in the area and everything will be brand new down to the screwdrivers.”
England said the new equipment will allow students to receive more training in high school before entering his program at the secondary level.
Warren County was one of 10 areas awarded the top grant of $1 million. There were 28 projects funded in all.
“We want to offer what our region needs,” said WCHS executive principal Clark George. “That way when our students graduate they can obtain a good-paying job.”
Officials say establishing the new machine tool lab will be a months-long process, but they believe it’s attainable by the start of the next school year.