RuthWorks Website Logo Update 2019


Teachers Learn from Industry

on Tuesday, 24 July 2018.


Last Friday, July 20th, marked the conclusion of the inaugural Rutherford Works Teacher Externship Program. This program is a partnership between the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, Rutherford County Schools and local industry with, the intent of helping middle school teachers gain first-hand knowledge of employment in our five, high demand, high wage industry sectors which include Advanced Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management, Health Care, Information Technology and Construction. This first-hand knowledge of the work environment, types of jobs and required job skills will help teachers, counselors and administrators who participate be able to speak to 6th, 7th and 8th graders from experience and better enable them to advise students on education and career goals. 

This inagural program was made possible by a Work Based Learning Grant, provided by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which provided stipends to each participant for 80 hours of employment and training.  The 2018 cohort consisted of teams from, Christiana Middle School, Oakland Middle School and Smyrna Middle School. 

Participants were:

Christiana Middle School:

Lisa Ezell

Erin Miller

Dawn Powell

Heaven Doh

Elizabeth Eubanks

Oakland Middle School:

Justin Usery

Kelsey Robertson

Tyler Eady

Smyrna Middle School:

LaShonda Chambers

Kristin Cantrell

Kelley Oberg

Gina Wray

Jacob Cook

Each school team was hosted by one of three employers.  A special thank you to Cynthia Adams, Vice President of Human Resources at TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center, who hosted the team from Oakland Middle School, Dan Caldwell, Senior Manager of Technical Training for Nissan Manufacturing who hosted the team from Smyrna Middle School and Monica Winter, Director of Human Resources for Ingram Content Group who hosted the Christiana Middle School team. 

Between July 9th and July 20th, the 13 teachers received in depth training on tools to help them better advise their students as they develop their high school schedules the 2nd semester of their 8th grade year.  These included Tennessee Career & Technical Education Programs of Study available in Rutherford County, Ready Graduate indicators, graduation requirements and Tennessee Pathways work through Rutherford Works.  One July 13th, they had the chance to meet with David Mansouri, President of SCORE, Graham Thomas, Deputy Director of Engagement and Partnerships with tnAchieves, Ann Thompson, Director of Workforce Development for Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, and Dr. Kenyatta Lovett, Executive Director of Complete Tennessee to better understand the higher education landscape and the many options available to students (and adults) in Tennessee today. 

On July 20th, the program concluded with a presentation from Leigh Bagwell,  Director of School Counseling Services with the Tennessee Department of Education and Troy Grant, Associate Executive Director for the Division of College Access and Success at Tennessee Higher Education Commission who discussed best practices and reviewed tools to assist in the advising process.  Heather Eskridge, School Counselor, Walter Hill Elementary School and 2018-2019 SCORE Fellow, shared the evolution and outcomes of “The Amazing Shake” program and inspired everyone present with work being done to change the lives of students in one of Rutherford County’s smallest elementary schools, proving that the size of the school is irrelevant when the passion of the administrators and teachers within its walls is contagious!

The most impactful part of the program, however, came during the 7 days spent working side by side with the employees and leaders at Ingram Content, Nissan Manufacturing and TriStar StoneCrest.  Time and time again team members were heard to say they had never really thought about what went on at any of these three facilities or the numerous jobs housed within each.  Nor did they understand that a 4 year college degree was NOT the only path to high paying jobs at each employer. 

The outcomes of the program are best summarized in comments from the participants:

“This was a valuable learning experience that has provided me information to advocate for CTE programs and aid students in choosing a career that best suits them and their interests.”

“For years, I’ve heard people say that education needs to be run more like a business and I thought they didn’t know what they were talking about.  However, now I see that education and business have a lot in common. We coach, they coach.  We work on school improvement, they work on process for improvement.  We are both producing a product, ours just happens to be well educated student, prepared to be a successful part of our community.”

“It has opened my mind to the possibility for all students to achieve something great, it has changed my outlook on what there is to come. I am thankful for my job, I cannot wait to share this with others!”

Following the two week program, each school team is responsible for designing and implementing a school wide engagement plan based on something they learned during their externship program.  Initial concepts were presented to the Rutherford Works staff and employers on July 20th and will be reviewed at the end of the 2019 school year.

Plans are already underway for the 2019 Rutherford Works Externship Program.  Applications will be open to middle schools in early 2019 with the goal of expanding to 5 schools placed with employers representing each of Rutherford County’s high wage, high growth employment sectors, with Ingram Content, Nissan Manufacturing and TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center all eager to host for a second year.