One of the major obstacles in meeting the long-term training needs of businesses is lack of capacity within the training and education system and lack of funding to implement new programs. The cornerstone of a service strategy moving forward is to open a satellite career and training center for the region, recruit partners and facilitate the creation of a sustainable model.

Launch the Northwest Tennessee Regional Higher Education Center: The Obion County Joint Economic Development Council has offered the former Obion County Industrial Training building as the location for the Northwest Tennessee Regional HEC. The building will be rent free, requiring only a minimal monthly fee to cover the cost of utilities and janitorial services based on the amount of square footage occupied. Since the building was formerly used for training, there is already classroom space and office space with furnishings. There is a need for technology enhancements to support innovative strategies for assisting dislocated workers and their families. The practically “move-in” ready building allows for partners to quickly accommodate the needs of workers. Additionally, due to the closeout of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant programs and potential cuts in the WIA formula funds, the LWIAs have an ample number of well-trained staff who are available to offer immediate assistance to the affected workers.

Develop Training Partnerships for the Northwest Tennessee Regional Higher Education Center: The comprehensive career and training center will house staff representing various partner agencies. This will include: the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD), which will provide basic labor exchange, unemployment insurance, Trade Adjustment Assistance (if applicable), and veterans services; the Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board (NTWB), which will provide core, intensive training services as established under the Workforce Investment Act; the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Division of Adult Education (AE), which will provide basic education instruction and GED preparation; and Workforce Essentials Inc. (WE), operator of Tennessee’s TANF program known locally as Families First. Other partners who will be on-site in an as-needed-basis and also accept referrals include Dyersburg State Community College’s Tennessee Small Business Development Center (DSCC TSBDC); University of Tennessee at Martin’s Tennessee Small Business Development Center (UTM TSBDC) and Regional Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (REED) Center; Institute of Career Development (ICD); and Department of Human Services Tennessee Rehabilitation Center at Union City (TRC), which provides specialized assistance to individuals with disabilities. Training providers who have tentatively agreed to offer classes on-site or by referral are Tennessee Technology Centers and Dyersburg State Community College. Other potential partners such as UT Martin have also indicated interest.

Develop a HEC Model that is Sustainable and Repeatable: The development of the Northwest Tennessee Regional HEC model is not unique; it has been utilized in various areas across Tennessee. The deployment of this HEC model should be of increasing value to the region. The development of a sustainable model is necessary to transform the workforce and create a valued asset that would support the strategies currently planned for recruitment and existing business.

Develop Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Training: In August 2011, LWIA 12, along with its multiple partners received the draft results of a nineteen 19-county regional Advanced Manufacturing Sector Analysis (AMSA). The Northwest Tennessee Employment Region is included in the AMSA. This report identifies companies, job titles, wage information, job openings and projected job growth in the sector. The analysis found that manufacturing jobs accounted for 18.9% of all jobs in LWIA 11 and 24.2% of all jobs in LWIA 12. The estimated employment in advanced manufacturing is 32,544, or 14% of all employment in the 19-county region.

Local companies within the 19-county region were surveyed. The survey started with a list of 677 manufacturing companies but was then narrowed to a list of 79 companies who were believed to be involved in advanced manufacturing. 41 companies were found to actually be involved in advanced manufacturing and were surveyed for the AMSA. The results indicate that there may be significant opportunities for employment in areas of management, maintenance, transportation/materials moving, production and other direct and indirect jobs derived from companies engaged in advanced manufacturing.