Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Career Fair Attracts More Than 1,600 Students

More than 1,600 eighth graders from Jackson, Overton, Putnam, and White county schools were given the chance to explore their future job opportunities at the Highlands Career Fair held recently.
The Highlands Workforce Development and Education Committee hosted the Career Fair at the Hooper Eblen Center on Tennessee Tech’s campus in an effort to encourage students at a younger age to stay in school, so they might be better equipped to achieve their life goals. Thirty-five area businesses set up booths designed to attract and peak student interest in career clusters. These businesses provided information on job opportunities and educational requirements for each position.

“Students with a higher education level will help attract 21st century jobs to this region,” said Susan Elkins, vice-president of Extended Programs and Regional Development at Tennessee Tech University and Highlands Workforce Development and Education Committee chair.

Keynote Speaker “Gator” Harrison, of 94.7 The Country Giant (he's the one in the middle of the photo above,) provided a motivational speech to the students about the importance of thinking about their future. Having attended White County High School, he emphasized the importance of graduating and getting a good education. Harrison encouraged students to think about what they love to do and to find a job doing just that. Other guest speakers from area governments and businesses spoke to students throughout the day including, Kim Blaylock, Putnam County Executive; Deeta Ellzey, HR director of Oreck Corporation; Jim McGeehin, Flowserve plant manager; and Jeffery Guth, law enforcement officer from Sparta. Each speaker focused on educational requirements necessary to secure a job in their line of work.

“As students begin to understand the relationship between education level and higher future earnings, graduation rates should improve,” said Lynda Breeden, Adult Education coordinator for Putnam County and chair of the Highlands Career Fair Committee.

In March of 2007, the Highlands Initiative, in partnership with Tennessee Tech University, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, and Overton, Putnam and White County schools, commissioned a workforce development study to address the question of “What factors influence students graduating from high school in the Highlands counties of Overton, Putnam & White?” The results of the study, coupled with discussions from participating school systems, indicated that pilot dropout prevention programs in each of the high schools involved in the study would be very beneficial to the efforts of the systems and schools to raise graduation rates. One specific goal was the implementation of a Highlands Career Fair.
According to the Tennessee Department of Education School System Report Card data, participating Highlands counties are ahead of the game when it comes to graduation rate since the study was commissioned in 2007. While the State of Tennessee’s 2009 average graduation rate is 83.2% with a 1.4% improvement over 2007, Overton County’s rate is 91.7% with a 2.4% increase over 2007. Putnam County’s rate is 91.5% with a 7.2% improvement, and White County’s is 88.5% with a 14.1% improvement over 2007.

The mission of the Highlands Workforce Development and Education Committee is to improve educational attainment and job readiness of the future workforce and increase training and skill development opportunities for the current workforce to match the needs of targeted industries and existing industry. The committee is an active part of the Highlands Initiative, a collaborative public/private sector program designed to boost economic and community development in Overton, Putnam and White counties. The committee is also working to establish a workforce study action team to address recommendations from the Wadley-Donovan Workforce Study including a Highlands’ Speakers Program and the Tennessee Scholars Program among other goals. For more information on the initiatives of the Highlands Workforce Development and Education Committee contact Lillian Hartgrove at 931-526-2211 or For information on the Highlands Initiative, visit