The long-awaited truck driving school planned for the Phipps Bend Industrial Park will not take place in 2022 because funding is not included in this year’s state budget.
Charles Johnson, campus coordinator for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Phipps Bend, told the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board at its March 17 meeting that he hopes funding will be approved in 2023.
“I received an update yesterday (March 16), and it looks positive,” Johnson told the IDB. “Right now it’s in the state budget committee. In December we made a proposal to the state for $400,000 for this program. It’s in the budget committee right now. More than probably it won’t be approved until next year’s budget.
Adding a truck driving school to the courses available at the Phipps Bend TCAT has been a top priority of Johnson and Morristown TCAT President Jerry Young due to a shortage of truck drivers in that area and throughout the country.
Young was in negotiations to partner with a trucking company to open the school in Phipps Bend, but that partner had to pull out due to driver shortages and force instructors to be on the road rather than teaching .
When the partner withdrew, TCAT had to request funding for the program from the state budget.
Johnson added: “I think we will have truck driving. I hope it’s not too late. If we had started this in January 2020 before it all fell apart, we would have trucks driving now.
New equipment for all programs
Johnson reported to the IDB that there has been a significant investment in new equipment for all Phipps Bend TCAT programs totaling over $100,000.
For example, the HVAC class received new trainers and new equipment.
“Students have been working on this for the past two weeks to get everything ready,” Johnson said. “Snap-On, Trane – things we see in the industry that our students need.”
Johnson noted that the Industrial Electrical/Industrial Maintenance classes received a new Pneumatic Hydraulic class, all new equipment, NC3 trainers, AC/DC trainers and Festo trainers. They also spent $12,000 to hire two new “multitasking” welders in the welding shop.
“We have where we can certify our students through this,” he added. “We have hired, and he will be on board on April 1, a new instructor. This will help us attract more students to the school. I don’t like waiting lists, so that’s the main reason he comes on board. He has certificates and diplomas in welding and maintenance, he will be able to help us everywhere in the school. … A by-product of that is that we will be able to get more students into the school.
Cosmetology equipment installed
Johnson told the IDB that plumbing and electrical upgrades needed to convert a classroom for cosmetology classes have been completed.
A TCAT construction class will build walls for the classroom.
TCAT has also ordered cosmetology equipment for the Phipps Bend and Greeneville campuses.
“This room will be state of the art when we finally have everything there, and as I said before, the classroom would be full if we had it open right now,” Johnson said.
TCAT is currently accepting applications for a Phipps Bend Cosmetology Instructor.