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July 14, 2016 | Tom Ballard

Newest Pellissippi State grant helping address region’s STEM workforce challenges

Pellissippi State-teknoBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Our readers fully understand the importance of a well-trained and available workforce to fuel a community’s economic vitality. The jobs that are typically the most in demand and most challenging to fill are in the STEM arena – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

As Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation at Pellissippi State Community College, I am very aware of the many initiatives that Tennessee’s largest two-year institution is undertaking to help fill that void.

Earlier this week, Pellissippi State announced receipt of another important building block in its work – a $3.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The “Knoxville Area Information Technology and Engineering” initiative will target two critically important STEM sectors – information technology and advanced manufacturing – and focus on underrepresented populations groups – women, young adults, and minorities.

There’s much to be done to address the region’s diverse workforce needs, particularly in Blount County where several thousand new jobs are looming thanks to expansions at Alcoa and Denso as well as new employers like Advanced Munitions International.

Here’s the Pellissippi State announcement:

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Pellissippi State Community College a $3.8 million workforce development grant that will allow the college to enhance its recruitment and training of women, young adults and other underrepresented minorities in the information technology and advanced manufacturing fields.

Pellissippi State is expected to begin recruiting students from around the region through the Knoxville Area Information Technology and Engineering, or KITE, grant in January 2017. In particular, KITE will focus on young adults (ages 17-29) with barriers to gainful employment, particularly women and minorities. KITE also will be open to nontraditional college students, particularly those between the ages of 45 and 60, who are under- or unemployed and who also lack skills to obtain jobs or promotions.

“Pellissippi State leads the way in workforce development in East Tennessee,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “Through KITE, we’ll partner with local employers to combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training to help boost the local economy and fill high-demand jobs with skilled employees.”

KITE will pair Pellissippi State students with a number of key regional employers, including DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, Jewelry Television, Staffing Solutions, Scripps Networks Interactive and others for on-the-job training — in the form of internships, apprenticeships or co-ops. Knoxville-Knox County CAC – Workforce Connections and KnoxWorks will provide students with interviewing, resume writing and job placement assistance.

“KITE is going to address identified gaps in training within the fields of information technology and advanced manufacturing, including the fact that women, minorities and other underrepresented populations are often rare in these fields,” Wise said.

Additionally, a portion of the DOL grant will go toward the purchase of specialized computer equipment at Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue and Strawberry Plains campuses, where high-tech computer labs will support the college’s new Cyber Defense concentration. Other funds will augment Engineering Technology programs offered at the Blount County, Hardin Valley and Strawberry Plains campuses.

Pellissippi State was one of 39 institutions across the country to win a Department of Labor TechHire award, and the only Tennessee institution to do so. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.

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