(above) Techtown, photo courtesy of Techtown
Office of Workforce Development
A new division of the Office of Economic & Community Development, the Office of Workforce Development was created to connect Chattanooga residents with employment assistance, skills training, and education necessary to obtain high-paying jobs. The office’s largest program is the Workforce Outreach initiative, a door-to-door campaign that supports residents in their job search. The Workforce Working Group meets regularly to increase communication among nonprofits, labor unions, area employers, and others regarding workforce development projects and strategies.
The Enterprise Center
Chattanooga’s publicly funded center for advancing innovation and new businesses is also dedicated to, among other goals, closing the major digital divide among citizens of Chattanooga. The center’s Tech Goes Home effort addresses this issue by providing free, 15-hour computer courses through partnerships with Hamilton County schools, public libraries, nonprofits, and churches. In addition, participants can purchase hardware and internet access at a low cost.
The Chamber’s workforce development programs bring together businesses and education-related organizations to address the region’s workforce needs. Programs range from skills workshops and career fairs to seminars and more. The Chamber reaches 15,000 students each school year and partners with more than 1,000 community volunteers.
Offering year-round after-school programs and summer camps for local youth, TechTown is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of innovators. Located in downtown Chattanooga, the technology learning center features 23,000 square feet of space for robotics, circuitry, coding, and film. Classes for adults are made available through Tech Workforce Program 4.0; these free classes cover basic hands-on and experimental skills that are vital to area workforce demands.
The Urban League’s Workforce Development program offers job training services, including job placement support, soft skills training, resume development, interview preparation, and computer training skills.
PUBLIC EDUCATION FOUNDATION
By placing underrepresented Hamilton County 10th-12th graders in paid internships with local companies and public agencies, STEP-UP is building tomorrow’s workforce today. Throughout the program, participating students receive work readiness training, on-the-job experience, professional mentors, advanced career opportunities, and ongoing support.
To better educate students, the PEF Innovation Hub provides K-12 teachers with access to innovative leading and learning experiences. The Hub involves area schools, colleges, nonprofits, and businesses in its efforts to elevate the teaching profession and prepare students for the emerging ecosystem. Initiatives include Teacherpreneur – a launchpad for transformative ideas in education – and Arcade Architects – a student video game design competition and showcase.
The Volkswagen eLabs are state-of-the-art digital fabrication studios that engage students in engineering and environmental learning experiences. Placed in Hamilton County public schools, the labs provide access to rapid prototyping technologies such as CNC routers, vinyl cutters, laser cutters, 3D printers, and micro-electronics. Teachers use the Volkswagen eLabs to empower students to be self-directed learners and equip them to collaborate and innovate as they solve real-world problems.
Chattanooga State’s Workforce Development team, comprised of faculty members and highly qualified professionals, was formed to provide training solutions addressing productivity issues, skills gaps, staff development, and strategic planning. Among others, the team’s workforce development training partners include Amazon, BASF, Gestamp, TVA, Volkswagen, WACKER Polysilicon, N.A., and Whirlpool. By partnering with these employers, Chattanooga State delivers high-impact, targeted training and apprenticeship programs to meet real-time needs.
Established in 2017, Polytech Academy affords high school juniors and seniors a hands-on learning experience in Chattanooga State’s labs. Ideal for both college and career-bound students, the academy’s areas of focus are building science, chemical engineering technology, mechatronics, and computer information technology. Students who attend will complete high school requirements while earning credit hours toward an Associate of Applied Science degree.
Chattanooga State’s Child Development Center (CDC) was just awarded the Childcare Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant by the U.S. Department of Education. This allows the CDC to expand services into the evening and to provide childcare tuition assistance to low-income student parents beginning fall 2019.
The goal of UTC’s CECS Workforce Development Center is to ensure that all engineering and computer science graduates are marketable upon entering the competitive global workforce. The center assists students by helping them gain valuable work experience while sharpening their interpersonal skills. Additionally, students take part in leadership and community service activities to broaden their learning experience.
Students can explore hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math programs through the UTC Challenger Center. With ties to the Hamilton County Schools system and other public and private educational entities, the center is able to serve 8,000 students and hundreds of teachers annually. Programs include simulated space missions, summer camps, and teacher professional development workshops.
Supporting economic development in the region, Cleveland State Community College has implemented programs in workforce training. A key part of this initiative is the OneSource Workforce Readiness Center, a state-of-the-art assessment and training center designed to identify, address, and close skills gaps that exist among the local industrial workforce. The center is designated as a National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) solutions assessment center. With this designation, Cleveland State works with local businesses and industries to access workers for pre-employment, promotion, and training programs. Assessment results are then used to develop curriculum and training that build core competencies for different workforces.