WHAT HAPPENS when local industry and a high school team up? They create an endless amount of opportunities for students to find employment in their own hometown, post-graduation, and they offer local industries the ability to recruit talented graduates to boost the quality of their workforce.
Franklin County Industrial Development Board Director Kelli Riley and Franklin County High School Career and Technical Educational Director Suzanne Mitchell have teamed up to make the most of a talented student base and a growing industry front. The two met just months ago and struck up a friendship and a common goal: to give local students the opportunity to work in Franklin County.
Currently across the state, there are 16 career clusters that, according to the Tennessee government website, encompass virtually all occupations from entry through professional levels and are aligned with the U.S. Department of Education’s structure of career and technical education.
The site also explains that career clusters identify the knowledge and skills needed to follow a pathway toward career goals and provide a context for exploring the many occupational options available.
Clusters include, but are not limited to, advanced manufacturing, architecture and construction, transportation, distribution and logistics, agriculture, food and nutrition, and health sciences.
According to Mitchell, of the 16 clusters,12 of those are offered between Franklin County High School and Huntland High School.
“What we aren’t able to offer, we partner with Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT),” she explained. “We partner with industrial development and the chamber to try to let the students know about job opportunities. We want students to know that there are job opportunities in Franklin County regardless of what their educational level is. There are entry-level jobs straight out of high school, and there are pathways for them to go to TCAT. And if they go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree or attend a university, there are opportunities for that as well. We are really wanting to broaden the knowledge of what’s available and let them know that we want you to stay here and work here.”
Mitchell added that these opportunities have been available to students before her taking helm as director. While covid did slow things down and limit students from going out into industries, Mitchell said now post- Covid they are getting back into the swing of things.
“We did these things prior to Covid, but Covid put things on a limited scale. We are just now being able to get back out there and into the community and get the students back into industry,” she said.
Riley said she is excited about the future of working with the students and the asset they will be to local industry.
“I work with [the schools] very closely,” she said. “We are excited about bringing students in as much as possible. Next year we have plans for students in both the welding and carpentry classes to construct a sign for our industrial park. We also have certifications available for students through local industry. Seniors can get certifications in different areas of welding. We also have industries that offer machining where students can obtain the same certifications.” GN