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March 10, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Pellissippi State drawing on its heritage to support the AMP! program

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a multi-part series about the region’s new Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Center of East Tennessee {AMP!}. The first article discussed the role that Buzz Patrick is playing as overall AMP! leader as well as the services that Tech 20/20 will be delivering.)

Pellissippi State Community College’s Teri Brahams says that her institution’s role in the region’s new Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Center of East Tennessee (AMP!) came about because Tech 20/20 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) needed an education partner. They plan to capitalize on that need in a very strategic way.

For Pellissippi State (PSCC), it was a perfect opportunity to build on the institution’s roots in technical training, enhance its curriculum with more cutting edge industrial technologies and manufacturing processes, and help kick start a new four-year educational alliance.

In the case of AMP!, PSCC is specifically responsible for delivering a certificate program in advanced manufacturing, but that’s just part of the institution’s plans to boost the region’s manufacturing competitiveness through enhanced workforce development programs.

Brahams, PSCC’s Executive Director of Economic and Workforce Development, and Pat Riddle, Program Coordinator for the college’s Mechanical Engineering Technologies Program, sat down recently with to discuss their roles in the three-year AMP!partnership.

PSCC joins with Tech 20/20, ORNL and the University of Tennessee’s Center for Industrial Services as partners driving the best funded of 10 advanced manufacturing initiatives awarded across the country in late October. The goal is to form public-private partnerships to help revitalize American manufacturing.

For Brahams, the opportunity builds on her everyday role where she works with businesses and industries in the college’s service area to address their training needs. She clearly understands the challenges they face in recruiting and retaining technically-qualified workers.

In Riddle’s case, it is clearly part of a special passion for students and the regional economy that the PSCC alum and 22-year college faculty member expressed consistently throughout the interview.

He talked about his experience as a young man who literally (or so he says) “walked out of Claiborne County at the Cumberland Gap” and into Pellissippi State as a student. Riddle is determined to do everything that he can to help provide similar opportunities for as many students as possible, and he believes additive manufacturing, a component of advanced manufacturing, holds great promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the region.

“We want to show people what you can do with rapid prototyping by employing additive manufacturing,” he says, adding, “We live in a world where product decisions are made in days, not weeks.”

Both believe the certificate training program that the college will deliver is an integral part of the region’s ability to help area manufacturers retain and add jobs.

The AMP program is funded by multiple federal agencies. In PSCC’s case, its funding comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, and Brahams says PSCC will use most of the monies for scholarships for students with a preference given to veterans.

The AMP! certificate program, however, is part of a larger vision that the college has. In addition to offering free-standing, non-credit training in additive manufacturing, PSCC will also imbed the curriculum in its Associate of Applied Sciences degree.

Brahams and Riddle said the college does not plan to stop at the two-year program level. PSCC is working with Austin Peay State University, which has the first Tennessee Board of Regents-approved four-year degree program in additive manufacturing, and hopes to start offering classes in what is called a “2 + 2” program as early as this fall in Knoxville.

“We will develop our new program with that four-year continuation in mind,” Riddle says. “It shows students there is a four-year route.”

Brahams and Riddle expect to work closely with ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) which is located just off Hardin Valley Road on the other side of Pellissippi Parkway. Such a relationship is a natural evolution for PSCC. Riddle said that five of his former students work in the MDF, and another 45 of his graduates have been hired in other lab areas. PSCC also has a coop program with ORNL and an apprenticeship program at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

For the region’s employers requiring workers with the skills that will be provided through the PSCC programs, Riddle cited an important statistic – 75 percent of community college graduates are still in the region five years after graduation.

Brahams summed-up the value of AMP! and PSCC’s role very succinctly. “Being on the leading edge helps solidify the perception of our region and its economic success,” she said.

NEXT: UT’s Center for Industrial Services leveraging AMP! role to support small manufacturers in 20 counties.

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