By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Tom Brewer brings decades of experience he had working for one of the global industry giants and more recent experience in workforce development to a newly created role at Tennessee Technological University (TTU) in Cookeville.
“I could not be any more pleased,” said Brewer, TTU’s Associate Vice President for Workforce Outreach. He started at TTU in August and reports to Bharat Soni, Vice President for Research and Economic Development.
The reporting relationship underscores the role Brewer is playing, an assignment that takes advantage of his experience at General Motors as well as his work with the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association (TAMA).
“We needed someone to better connect us with industry,” said Soni.
Brewer came to TTU from Spring Hill’s Workforce Development and Conference Center, where since January 2010 he served as Managing Director. The organization is housed in Northfield, the former headquarters for Saturn Corporation.
In that role, Brewer worked to connect businesses and industries in South Central Tennessee with resources to meet training and workforce needs. He also was a key player in the formation of the Southern Automotive Conference (SAC), an annual event that links original equipment manufacturers and suppliers from a number of southern states.
Through this work, Brewer learned firsthand just how important TTU is to the growth of manufacturing across the region, not just in Tennessee and not just in automotive.
“People tell me that Tennessee Tech is one of the best kept secrets around,” Brewer said. “My role is to help it not be a secret anymore.”
The geographic focus is not just Tennessee.
“We’ll look here first,” he said. Brewer’s work with TAMA and SAC offers a larger hunting ground for opportunities. This year’s SAC drew almost 750 attendees.
Another key asset that Brewer brings to TTU is his General Motors network.
“Almost everyone in the automotive industry has worked for GM at some time in their career,” he said.
Brewer said his new role “has almost no boundaries. I absolutely don’t have a defined path. That’s part of the fun of it.”
At TTU, Brewer’s role is to manage a two-way street. It starts with how the university can support industries through assistance, training and well-prepared graduates. He also wants to help faculty understand “the language and thought patterns of industry,” thereby facilitating more interactions and opportunities.