Boones Creek TCAT expansion a must

Johnson City Press • Jan 3, 2020 at 8:49 AM

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is scheduled to be in Elizabethton today to tour the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

His stated goal is to see the effects of the $1 million the school received from the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education.

That vocational investment — $25 million across Tennessee — is in keeping with Lee’s promise to rehabilitate career, technical and workforce training in the state’s educational systems.

While he’s in the area, we suggest the governor take time from his busy schedule for a detour over to Boones Creek to see the old elementary school building there, which local officials hope to convert into a satellite TCAT campus.

As Senior Reporter Robert Houk reported in Thursday’s edition, Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy is optimistic about prospects for the TCAT expansion, citing a commitment from Lee. This despite missing out on a Department of Labor grant that would have equipped the campus with $2 million worth of equipment for six different training programs at Boones Creek. TCAT is looking to the Appalachian Regional Commission for a smaller grant.

Simply stated, Northeast Tennessee needs greater access — more course offerings and more locations — to fill the regional deficiencies in career readiness. If Washington County and the greater Appalachian Highlands region is to compete for industry, technology-oriented businesses and well-paying jobs, we must have the personnel capacity in place.

The TCAT expansion is a critical component in that effort, particularly for students in Washington County. Lee and our local legislative delegation must see it through to fruition.

And TCAT in Elizabethton and the Boones Creek satellite must be accompanied by larger reforms at every Tennessee high school. On the campaign trail in 2018, Lee promised to help integrate more career-technical training into secondary education via public-private partnerships with business in industry. As we stated on New Year’s Day, that reform lands high on our wish list for 2020.

Public education does not have the capacity on its own to meet the intellectual, technical and equipment demands this type of comprehensive training requires. The capacity is available, however, in the private sector, and Tennessee should do everything in its power to afford that knowledge to our young people, as well as adults.

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