Spotlight on the Highlands Workforce Development Project

Posted by Kate Spears on

This week on the WCTE’s Get Ready To Learn radio show, join host Cindy Putman as she discusses the importance of parental engagement for student success with Kathy Bain, Liaison, Workforce Development & Education for the Highlands Economic Partnership.

During the show, they touched on the mission of the Highlands Workforce and Education, which you can learn more about here.

The Highlands Economic Partnership, which was launched in 2006 by the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, is a collaborative, public/private sector program designed to boost economic and community development in Jackson, Overton, Putnam and White counties. Over 80 investor companies made up of federal, state, city and county governments and agencies, chambers of commerce, key officials and business leaders throughout the region, play key roles in the program’s development.

One important part of the Highlands Economic Partnership is the the Highlands Workforce Development and Education Program Steering Committee. This committee came to be after two careful studies. The first study, “Improving High School Graduation Rates among At-Risk Students,” was conducted from March 2007 to January 2008 for and with Jackson, Overton, Putnam, and White County Schools in partnership with Tennessee Technological University. The second study was the Labor Market Assessment for the Highlands of Tennessee, which was conducted in November 2009 by Wadley-Donovan GrowthTech, LLC of Springfield, New Jersey.

The Steering Committee established subcommittees to take action on goals and objectives based on the recommendations of the two studies and based on the needs of area employers seeking a highly trained and skilled workforce.

The Highlands Workforce Development and Education Program of Work, guided by the Steering Committee, provided the foundation that led to joining Tennessee’s Pathways to Prosperity Network and Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Tennessee Reconnect Communities.

The collaboration among business, industry, community organizations, K-12 education, and post-secondary education allowed the Highlands Economic Partnership to become the first to implement Pathways to Prosperity and an Upper Cumberland Tennessee Reconnect Community.

The Tennessee Scholars Program is a joint effort of school districts, local chambers of commerce and the business community.  The program includes a rigorous course of study that encourages students to take more demanding classes in high school, obtain a 95% attendance record, and volunteer 80 hours of community service in their four years of high school. The curriculum provides an education that better prepares students to enter a technical school, postsecondary education, a university, or the workforce.  

Business professionals introduce the program to 8th grade students to begin the process of planning for high school and to encourage participation in the Tennessee Scholars Program. Business professional are also tapped to speak with 9th grade students and their parents during 9th grade orientation.  

The number of students graduating as a TN Scholar continues to increase each year, having a long term impact on student success in college and the workplace.

Bain is a retired educator and guidance counselor with the White County School System. Both Bain and Putman agree that when parents are involved in their child’s education it benefits the student, parent, and teacher.

Parent engagement is an ongoing process that increases active participation, communication, and collaboration between parents, schools, and communities with the goal of educating the whole child to ensure student achievement and success.

The Parental Engagement Sub-Committee made the case for offering parental engagement seminars in the workplace in September 2011. The idea came to fruition after hearing from educators of the low parental participation in seminars offered at the schools. Through a brainstorming session, the idea of offering seminars in the workplace was suggested by an industry leader and accepted by the education partners and other committee members.

Pilot companies were identified, employees were surveyed for topics and encouraged to attend their first 30 minute-session on “self-esteem” in the comfortable atmosphere of their own place of employment, with support from their company. Employees responded overwhelmingly in favor of the sessions and clamored for more time and sessions on various topics.

The program continues to expand to more organizations each year and includes topics on bullying, drug awareness, communication, family dynamics, risky behavior, social-media issues, responding to your child’s personality, peer pressure, teen trends, understanding testing, self-esteem and more.

Participant surveys reveal that 58% of the respondents do not attend parental involvement sessions in their local schools. There are a variety of reasons why session attendance at school is challenging and why conducting sessions in the workplace are growing more and more popular.

Bain and Putman discussed the Jackson Kayak Parental trainings that Putman is conducting in the Jackson Kayak plant in White County. Twenty  parents attend during their lunch break and learn hands-on tips to help them be their child’s first teacher.

Bain is proud of the work that she and Julia Huddleston are doing with Parental engagement  in White, Warren, Clay, Jackson and Overton Counties for parents in their workplaces and thanks WCTE and Saint Thomas Hospital for their support.

Catch this week’s “Cyberchase Minute” as Putman encourages parents to raise healthy kids on a healthy planet. Check out CYBERCHASE on WCTE weekdays at 3:30. Cyberchase shows kids that math is everywhere and everyone can be good at it! Online quests, games, videos and more help kids develop strong math skills and problem solving techniques.

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WCTE’s Educational Team can customize workshops or professional development trainings for your group or organization. For workshop information, or to inquire about scheduling a workshop, call 921-528-2222 x. 227 or email us.

Topics are listed below:

  • Using Media as a learning tool
  • Using PBS kids apps to extend learning
  • How to be your child’s first teacher
  • Sesame Street Workshops
  • How does poverty effect a child’s brain
  • Literacy and Math
  • Brain Development

Workshops can be conducted in English and Spanish.