Officials meet with Motlow College representatives to discuss plans

By | October 8, 2018 6:07 am

County, city, and state officials, as well as representatives from the White County school system and Upper Cumberland Development District, recently met with representatives from Motlow State Community College to make plans for future educational needs in White County. (Photo by RIMA AUSTIN)

Numerous elected officials met with the upper echelons of Motlow State Community College, on Oct. 4, 2018, to discuss the future of the college and its role in Sparta.

Bank of White County hosted the breakfast where representatives from the city, county, and school system were featured speakers. White County Executive Denny Wayne Robinson spoke to the group about the importance of college educated White County High School alumni serving in key positions in the county.

Melody Edmonds, Motlow State Community College interim vice president of academic affairs, presented the audience with facts about White County college statistics. She stated that, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, the rate of students who graduate high school in the state of Tennessee is 89.1 percent. This is 4.7 percent lower than the graduation rate of White County High School students, which is 93.8 percent. Edmonds touched on the Drive to 55 initiative and stated what that entailed and why it is important.

“The Drive to 55 goals were based on an expected industry demand and what industry is going to need as far as workers,” said Edmonds. “Since 2008, jobs requiring a high school diploma only have declined. Populations may have grown, but the demand out there for just having high school diplomas have decreased.”

According to the THEC-TSAC data, White County is above average when it comes to students being diligent about applying for higher education. The basic FAFSA overall filing rate in the state is 80.3 percent; it is 86.2 percent in the county. The state-filing rate for Tennessee Promise is 85.6 percent as opposed to the county, which is 90.6 percent. There are over 26,000 people in White County. Of those within the age range of 25-64, 2,455 (18.4 percent) have some sort of college degree. Within the same age range, 2,873 (21.5 percent) have some college but no degree. Motlow and White County would like to see that change. Edmonds explained that to increase the county’s enrollment rate by 5 percent, just 13 more students than last year must enroll in college.

Michael L. Torrence, Ph.D., president of Motlow State Community College, stated he would like to look at the future of Motlow in regional terms. He stated that looking outside of the county in terms of students looking for employment is just as important as having something available within the county.

“What is important for our community is to look at what is happening around us,” said Torrence. “We are directly impacted by the growth that is happening in Putnam County.”

Torrence went on to explain that the factories of 20 or 30 years ago are not the factories of the present. The industrial market today involves a lot more computer and robotic systems, and that is where he plans to guide Motlow in the future. He lists technology, manufacturing, robotics, and automation as the jobs of today.

“The wonderful thing about two-year degrees and certifications now is that you can have high-wage employment,” said Torrence. “We are talking $50,000 to $75,000 per year salaries.”Torrence addressed having more women in the mechatronics and robotics arena.

“Having women involved in these is more of creating a conversation and having awareness,” said Torrence. “Instead of being an LPN, which is a great job to have, but do you know that you could probably make at least 40 percent more [in wages] as someone trained in mechatronics and robotics?”

Torrence and the Motlow advisory board agreed the best way to prepare students to compete in the future is to place more emphasis on training in manufacturing.

“When we talk about generational change or impacting the livelihood of women and men, creating that space for that dialog where they understand that manufacturing isn’t dirty and dark any more,” said Torrence. “It’s about troubleshooting. It’s about making sure that what’s on the line continues to run, and the skill set for that is very different than what it was in my grandfather’s day. It’s beyond that now. It’s not lifting 100-pound boxes, and it’s making sure the robotic arm does what it’s supposed to do.”

For more information about enrolling at Motlow State Community College, contact the White County campus at (931) 837-3341 or visit them at 603 Roosevelt Dr. in Sparta.

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