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Don't want to be J.O.B.

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J.O.B. means "just over broke," just the minimum wage when you graduate high school, get a job and immediately hit the wage ceiling.

However, there are 101-plus applications waiting for review on the desk of Kevin Harrison in Hartsville. He's the admissions councilor at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, who works from the Hartsville campus. But, many of these applications are for the college's new Lebanon satellite campus that opened Feb. 2, in the former Lebanon High School vocational wing.

Harrison updated the status of the new campus to local business owners at the Economic Community Development Council monthly meeting on Friday held at Mt. Juliet City Hall. He talked about the advantages of attending TCAT.

"It's not a four year degree," he said. "But it's training that will provide work-ready skills. There's no pushing through Humanities, it's hands-on training, and in less than 20 months they are ready to go to work."

Along with the longtime Hartsville campus, TCAT also has campuses in Red Boiling Springs, Sumner County and Westmoreland, Harrison said.

He noted only 30 percent of students who pursue a Bachelor's degree actually get it. The new Tennessee Promise grant just enacted by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam allows students to attend TCAT free, Harrison said. They are the local quintessential "tech school." And now they are in Lebanon with basic offerings, but so many more to come.

"It's life changing really," he said. "They get free tuition at our school."

Why attend TCAT?
Harrison said 85 percent of their graduates are working.

TCAT is a part of the Tennessee Board of Regents and is the sixth largest system of higher education in the nation.

During the academic year ending Aug. 31, 2012, the TCAT s serviced over 29,000 students statewide and provided approximately 10 million hours of training that generated over 11,400 full-time equivalent students.

In 2011-2012, the TCATs awarded 2,182 certificates and 4,980 diplomas. In addition, approximately 6,090 supplemental certificates were awarded.

"Seventy-nine percent of our graduates completed their programs," said Harrison.

Some of the programs available at the Hartsville campus include: administrative office technology, automotive technology, computer information technology, industrial maintenance technology, machine tool technology, patient care technology, practical nursing and welding technology.

Harrison said the new Lebanon campus now offers programs in licensed practical nursing and computer information technology. Soon it will offer classes in machine tooling, HVAC, cosmetology and more.

Portrait of a TCAT student
She's not what Harrison sees on a regular basis. But, she's smart and she knows she can get a great education at TCAT. Kaitlyn Simms is a Wilson Central High School graduate. She scored a rare 28 on her ACT. She said she planned to attend U.T. Martin, but was afraid of the student loans. She attended the Hartvsille TCAT campus and is pursuing her CNA (certified nursing attendant) degree. She's already working at a local nursing home and will most likely further her education.

Another student, he prefers to remain anonymous, was a solid C student and joined TCAT's Industrial Maintenance Program. It's a 16-month stint and everyone said he would not last two months. He did. He went to a workplace in Portland to make $16 an hour. When he graduated the program he was bumped to $20 an hour.

"Last year he was making $65,000," said Harrison.

Mt. Juliet company Orchid donated a high tech machine to the school in order to help them teach students how to perform. They could not get skilled workers. Now, they can.

Most of TCAT's nursing students do their clinicals at University Medical Center. Others go to work at Dell and make $55,000 to start.

"We are simply here to help people," said Harrison.

Ways to pay for tuition at TCAT include: Tennessee Promise, TN Reconnect (for older students), Wilder-Naifeh Tech Skills Grant ($2,000) and the Federal Pell Grant.

Call 615-347-2147 for information about Lebanon current and upcoming classes offered, as well has Hartsville classes.

Writer Laurie Everett may be reached at laurieeverett1@gmail.com.

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