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MC CTE receives $130,000 grant

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By Michelle Hollenhead

The Morgan County Career and Technical Center will be $130,625 richer this year, thanks to a state grant.

Director of Schools Ronnie Wilson was notified in late July about the award, which is through the Tennessee Department of Education.

The funds will be used to upgrade equipment in both the health sciences division and advanced manufacturing.

“We are excited to be able to make these upgrades in our CTE Programs,” Wilson said. “This will allow us to give our students in Morgan County the same opportunities that other districts have.”

Career and Technical Center Principal Dan Shoemaker was equally effusive about the additional funds.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to upgrade our programs considerably,” he said. “This will certainly help equip our students with 21st century skills.

“We are excited to be able to add and replace equipment in these programs.

“It is important stay up to date with the latest technology both in the classroom and in these fields of study.”

Shoemaker worked with CTE instructors ginger Keener, Tim Steelman and Steve Alford to identify specific replacement and upgrades in developing a proposal they submitted in early July.

The CTE program has about 400 students at any given time.

One area that will receive a large amount of upgrading will be the welding and machining departments, where some of the equipment dates back to the early 1980s.

“Every machine [here] will be replaced,” said welding instructor Tim Steelman.

His classes are quite popular. He said he has 25 students per class, which equals to 75 a day, with 160 on a waiting list.

Students have to go through three semesters to make it a career plan.

It can be very lucrative; Steeelman has had students graduate from high school, and immediately be hired at upwards of $100,000 annually.

Some are even able to work locally, with at least six area machine shops locally.

The CTE also works with dual enrollment programs at Roane State Community College locations in Harriman and Oneida.

Steelman said there is currently a large demand for welding skills.

“The average age of a welder today is 54, and they will likely be retiring in five to six years,” Steelman said. “That will leave a shortage of 45,000 annually in the United States.

Machine shop teacher Steve Alford said funding in his department will be spent on a CNC mill (4axis) and laser engraver ( rotary table).

“I am also getting tooling package (tool holders and cutters) for the CNC mill.”

“In the health sciences we are adding diagnostic simulators to allow students the opportunity to work through realistic patient simulations,” Shoemaker said.

“Bottom line, this is a tremendous benefit for our students in becoming college and career ready.”