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Grant will expand program that allows high school students to earn college degree in tech

Grant will expand program that allows high school students to earn college degree in tech


Supported by a host of local leaders, the non-profit Education Foundation
for Williamson County has raised $25,000 to fund the participation of 25 students earning associate of applied science degrees in engineering systems technology while enrolled at Fairview High School.

The pilot Mechatronics program, launched last year, is designed to help close the high-tech skills gap and place technical students into career tracks immediately after high school graduation.

Education Foundation members and educators pose with a check representing the foundation’s mechatronics grant. // SUBMITTED

“Through Columbia State Community College and Tennessee’s Labor Education Alignment (LEAP) Program, we’re able to offer a degree track for Fairview High School students that creates direct career pathways for students who otherwise may never earn a degree,” said Fairview High School Principal Juli Oyer. “The challenge was funding for the program to allow these 25 students to participate this fall, and the Education Foundation for Williamson County committed to raising $25,000. They did it in less than 60 days, which indicates what strong
support we have from our community.”

The Mechatronics program, available to up to 40 students a year, equips participants with the skills and credentials needed for high-wage, highly skilled and in-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing throughout the state. At Fairview High, where the overall socio-economic demographics have hampered historical post-secondary success, it’s a unique opportunity to change lives.

Since 2010, Tennessee has seen a 33 percent increase in advanced manufacturing jobs, and projections show that millions of jobs will be available nationally during the next decade.

However, the state’s low unemployment rate and lack of training options mean that many of those jobs will go unfilled due to a shortage of qualified applicants.

“The Education Foundation was founded for these kinds of opportunities. Our role here is to engage the private sector in supporting a program that has the potential to change generational trajectories,” Foundation President Stacey Watson said. “With this campaign, we were delighted to have the support of our city and county mayor and full legislative delegation, all of whom donated personally, alongside a range of individuals from the business and non-profit sectors.

“They understand the value of this program: students trained in Mechatronics and equipped with the associate’s degree will be in great demand for high-paying, rewarding jobs that can lead to meaningful careers in technology-based manufacturing.”

During the 2016-2017 school year, more than 90 percent of the first group of 34 students earned at least four credits toward the degree. Now that group is entering the semester with an opportunity to complete the degree during the 2017-2018 school year, while more students join the program. Oyer says
it’s already moving the needle.

“This data far exceeds the post-secondary progress experienced historically at Fairview High School,” she said. “In 2011, FHS graduated 163 students, and only 23 percent of them earned any type of post-secondary degree after six years. If the students enrolled now in the Mechatronics program completed the associates degree while still enrolled here, we would have essentially doubled our post-secondary success rate. It’s that powerful.

“The remarkable partnership with Columbia State Community College brings the college experience to our campus and removes any barriers that have historically had detrimental implications for our students. We greatly appreciate the collaboration to change the lives of students.”

To learn more about ways to support the Mechatronics program at Fairview High, please visit the Education Foundation’s website at

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