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Gov. Lee sees new advanced manufacturing lab at TCAT Elizabethton

John Thompson • Updated Jan 3, 2020 at 10:01 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Gov. Bill Lee made his first visit to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton a memorable one by celebrating a $1 million grant from the Governor’s Investment for Vocational Education, or GIVE.

The grant’s impact was emphasized by setting the governor’s speech in the newly organized lab for one of the programs the funds helped develop, the advanced manufacturing laboratory. Many newly acquired state-of-the-art tools were displayed in the front of the room to show the sophistication of the training the students in the new program will receive.

Lee spoke to a room filled with not only local and regional government officials, but also with people involved in economic development and workforce development. Education leaders were also on hand, including Corey Gardenhour, director of the Elizabethton City School System.

His district will receive one of the satellite advanced manufacturing classrooms that will be tied to TCAT Elizabethton.

Lee told the audience that he was concerned with the state’s education system long before he became governor. As the head of a large employer of craftsmen and technicians, Lee told the audience “I know one educational system did not always develop the skills needed … I knew that as an employer.”

Lee said his company even took the expensive step of providing the needed training for employees that they weren’t getting in the classroom.

The $1 million grant to TCAT Elizabethton is part of a total package of $25 million for institutions across the state. The grant to TCAT Elizabethton will help fund “Northeast STEM to Work” training at TCAT Elizabethton.

The initiative will emphasize training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education to more than 300 high school students representing nine school systems within the TCAT Elizabethton service area, covering Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties. The initiative is designed to address existing and future demands for trained workers with advanced manufacturing skills.

Lee has hopes that the GIVE initiative will encourage further development in the state’s high schools, to such an extent that “It would change the way high schools look in the future.”

In addition to providing assistance to local school districts, TCAT Elizabethton’s Northeast STEM to Work will also have the advanced manufacturing lab to help students become proficient in advanced manufacturing skills and techniques before they are hired.

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