Dessislava Yankova, The Tennessean
Offering more programs geared toward in-demand jobs is one way Volunteer State Community College could improve over the next five years, business and community leaders say.
Vol State held a community input meeting Tuesday as part of its five-year development plan. While the college offers a strong educational base, Forward Sumner President Jimmy Johnston said, the college could improve its pathways from learning to careers.
“Students can benefit from more internships, apprenticeships, exploratory work and other opportunities to experience their planned careers,”
Johnston said. “It could also help to look into programs such as an associate degree in industrial maintenance, which could be a bridge for students looking to earn an engineering degree because engineering jobs are in demand.”
Keeping up with ongoing career changes by stepping up communication with businesses could help better meet training needs, said Sherri Ferguson, executive director of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, which sits in a city with high industrial growth.
Lauren Collier, one of the meeting’s moderators, however, said what the college hears from businesses is the need for workers rather than the particular skills in demand.
“Tell us what is the specific training you need,” Collier said. “And we can provide it.”
Better advising can also come in handy, said Kimberly Lynn, executive director of the Goodlettsville Area Chamber of Commerce, whose son is a sophomore at Vol State.
“I had to figure out what classes he needs,” Lynn said. “And that shouldn’t be my role.”
Vol State has approximately 8,000 students this semester, with 1,500 new students enrolled due to the Tennessee Promise scholarship program.
School strategists asked community leaders what is the school doing well and what can be improved to meet Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 challenge, which calls for having 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by 2025.
Reaching Haslam’s goal would require the Tennessee Board of Regents’ 46 higher education institutions to graduate another 43,202 students by 2025.
“Even if every high school student graduates from college starting now, it wouldn’t be enough,” said Lauren Collier, one of the meeting’s moderators. “That’s why we’re trying to also reach adults who started but never finished a program.”
Enhanced publicity of programs throughout the community would also be a valuable tool, said Amanda Foster, vice president of Development for the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“That would help outreach groups like us get the word out,” Foster said.
Vol State leaders have already met with faculty and staff. Next, they plan to put out flipcharts on campus to capture the input of students.
“We have been asking for input from the community so you can help us guide our planning process and help us to focus on things that will benefit the community,” said Jane McGuire, Vol State’s vice president of Instructional Effectiveness. “We ask and encourage you to be creative in your thoughts because that will help us be creative as well.”
All feedback will be shaped into broader goals they will use to replace the school’s 2010-15 strategic plan by December.
Reach Dessislava Yankova at 615-575-7170 and on Twitter @desspor.
Tennessee Board of Regents by the numbers
43,202 more graduates needed by 2025
115 teaching locations
614 programs of study
Source: Tennessee Board of Regents