ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — With demand for its graduates high and a new location set to open in August, the Tennessee Center for Applied Technology (TCAT) based in Elizabethton is busy adding or expanding programs.
“We actually have quite a few waiting lists in a lot of our programs so this is a way to combat that,” the school’s president, David Hicks, told News Channel 11 Tuesday.
Hicks spoke about an hour after sending an update to TCAT staff about the growth that will occur with the opening of a Boones Creek campus in Washington County in August and the addition of new programs at its Kingsport campus.
“It’s just really a very concerted effort to expand technical education into more of our five-county service area,” Hicks said. That area includes Sullivan, Washington, Carter, Johnson and Unicoi counties.
Hicks’s email detailed the addition of one brand new program (collision repair), the possibility of a second (equipment operator) and the expansion of five others by late 2024, with a number of those beginning this fall.
The changes come as demand is increasing for the college’s graduates, who almost all go directly into the workforce after completing programs typically ranging from as little as four months to closer to two years.
The changes will result in about a dozen new hires or replacements at the school, which has about 650 total students currently including about 200 dual-enrolled high schoolers. The TCAT is also slowly building a so-called “middle college” program in some study areas, in which certain carefully selected students can earn a TCAT certification by the time they graduate from high school.
Additional classes at Boones Creek, which will meet at a renovated Boones Creek Elementary School, will include a new cosmetology class with both dual enrollment and adult students, an industrial electricity program with dual enrollment and adult students and a building construction technology program with both types of students.
“We already have two classes of cosmetology in Elizabethton at our Arney Street campus, so hopefully we’ll be able to cut into that waitlist and get more people into that field,” Hicks said.
The building construction tech program will mirror a successful one in operation at the Kingsport campus, which is at the old Sullivan North High School.
“There is a lot of demand for the construction trades so we’ve got a lot of support from area builders,” Hicks said.
That program is expected to include quite a few dual enrollment students, most from the Washington County Schools and some from Science Hill High School in Johnson City. Students can complete all the sub-areas such as masonry, carpentry and electrical or just focus on one and come out with a certification in as little as four months.
A new building planned for the Boones Creek campus should allow for the start of a Diesel Kubota Tech program in fall 2024 and possibly an equipment operator program that would be new to this TCAT.
In Kingsport, a brand new collision repair program will launch in August with dual enrollment and adult students, and the site will host additional automotive and Diesel Kubota tech courses.
“A big part of our work involves making sure our students will get placed and we’re adding programs where there is demand,” Hicks said.
But the TCAT universe is definitely expanding under Gov. Bill Lee, who is pouring hundreds of millions of new money into it in his proposed fiscal 2024 budget.
“There’s a very good chance that we will hit 1,000 (students) next year,” Hicks said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s exciting work.”