Morristown looks to teens to keep big business in town

Students hang their jackets as they arrive at the school of La Ronce in Ville d'Avray, west of Paris, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. French children go to school four days a week with about two hours each day for lunch. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) - A new workforce task force is looking to solve a dwindling employee base skilled for high-tech manufacturing jobs, the kind splashed all over Morristown's landscape.

"What we're finding is that there is a gap in the skill set needed in our existent industry," said chamber of commerce president Marshall Ramsey.

The task force is a special initiative of the city and county mayors. It's met a couple of times deciding the answer lies in the vast number of high school grads choosing not to move on to college.

For now, the focus is on Morristown East High School's new STEM program. It's real world applications are perfect for teaching students the hands on, practical skills they need to know for entering manufacturing plants.

"This curriculum is totally different. We're trying to incorporate real world scenarios and using instruments these kids are going to use," said ag teacher Melinda Jessee.

The center includes classes in a whole handful of subjects, but they're all related through their practical applications.

"Instead of just 100-percent traditional greenhouse operations. Is we're kind of doing the greenhouse of the future. How you can feed the world tomorrow with all of our diminishing farmlands," said ag teacher Jennifer Overby.

"Instead of doing a PH reading just doing the traditional dropper method we're using meters that give us an actual digital reading," said Jessee.

"The problems that they have, I make them think. They're very organized. I make them keep a notebook. There's a place for everything. Everything has a place. We push them and they respond," said engineering teacher Terry Beffrey.

It's the hands-on training that translates to the real world that city officials hope will bring an end to the ever-growing gap and fill as many as 600 jobs over the next few years.

"Our goal is to create those skills before our competitors do. We want to make East Tennessee the most competitive place to recruit and retain jobs," said Ramsey.

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