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Southwest Tennessee Development District and Area TCATs Awarded Maximum LEAP Grant to Promote Workforce Development


JACKSON, TN – September 28 – The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) has

announced that Southwest Tennessee Development District (SWTDD) was awarded a $999,123.00

grant through the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP). The grant is the largest of the

twelve awarded and represents an unprecedented collaboration among nine Tennessee Colleges of

Applied Technology (TCAT), sixteen high schools, sixteen industries, and numerous government

agencies in West Tennessee.

“This grant will greatly enhance West Tennessee’s ability to train a qualified workforce for years to

come,” SWTDD Executive Director Joe Barker said. “The funding will enable TCATs and high

schools to offer career training in applied settings, while providing local manufacturers the skilled

workforce they need to succeed. We truly appreciate the Governor’s Workforce Sub-Cabinet for

their support of our efforts, and the Tennessee General Assembly for authorizing the LEAP funds


“TCATs: Taking Charge of Applied Training” will start or expand programs of study for career

pathways in Advanced Manufacturing at high schools in Carroll, Chester, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson,

Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lauderdale, Shelby, Tipton and Weakley Counties. The goal

is to increase the opportunity for high school Career & Technical Education students to start their

learning process in Machining and Welding Technologies, accelerate their progress through these

programs while earning industry-recognized certifications, and complete credit hours towards a

diploma with a TCAT while still in high school. Grant funds will be used to purchase and install the

necessary equipment to create a “hands-on” environment as students learn and hone skills in

these areas. In a dramatic expression of support for this initiative, sixteen West Tennessee

industries have pledged to participate in paid work-based learning experience for students, for

which students will received TCAT credit towards a diploma, as well.

An initiative of Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55, LEAP was developed to ensure that Tennessee

is graduating skilled workers ready to take on the jobs offered by employers and industry. The

program aims to close skills gaps by ensuring that students enrolled in courses provided by

Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) and community colleges gain the necessary

skills to meet the requirements of high-skill and high-technology jobs demanded by industry

leaders in the state.

“If we can eliminate gaps in the skills needed by local manufacturers and other companies and the

types of degrees and courses offered by local community and technical colleges, we can strengthen

our workforce to meet industry demands,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said. “These LEAP

grants help create programs that tie specific training and skills to current workforce needs, helping

more Tennesseans qualify for good, high-paying jobs. This is a key piece of our Drive to 55

campaign to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55

percent by 2025.”

LEAP is administered by THEC and advised by the Governor’s Workforce Sub-Cabinet.

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