Southwest Tennessee Community College and Mid-South Community College unite to create the Mid-South Manufacturing/Distribution Training & Education Institute

Release date: 1/24/2014

In an historic agreement, Southwest Tennessee Community College and Mid-South Community College have committed to the creation of the Mid-South Manufacturing/Distribution Training and Education Institute.

“This just makes common sense,” says Dr. Nathan Essex, president of Southwest Tennessee Community College. “By establishing regional common programs and resources that are aligned with employer requirements, we can more efficiently share expensive faculty and equipment resources and more effectively respond to the regions workforce needs.”

“It is extremely important that the people in our region have access to education pathways that provide them the skills for jobs in the near term and the ability to continue along a pathway towards higher skills and better jobs as their lives unfold,” says Dr. Glen Fenter, president of Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, Arkansas.

This collaboration is aligned with the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, a group of more than 100 business leaders whose mission is “Making Memphis Great,” starting with five moon missions, one of which is focused on advanced manufacturing, commonly known as “Harvard Tech.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” says Dexter Muller, interim president of the Greater Memphis Chamber. “With a single handshake these college presidents on both sides of the River have started us on a path to provide a more responsive workforce development system for employers.  The Chamber will continue to work closely with these partners as the Institute develops.”

“One of the priorities of the Chairman’s Circle is to ensure we consider all resources already engaged in the areas addressed by our Moon Missions,” says Willie Gregory, Director of Global Community Impact for Nike and co-chair of the Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle “Harvard Tech” Committee.  “Having these leaders in technical education combine their resources to help achieve our common goals is historic and an innovative collaboration that will make a tremendous difference in our community.”

“Employer engagement in this process is essential,” says Dr. Sunny Morris, consultant with the Greater Memphis Chamber. “They will be asked to provide their expertise on Institute design and to leverage their relationships with their equipment providers to facilitate entrustment of equipment at the Institute. This will ensure that Institute graduates will always have access to the state-of-the art equipment they will encounter in the workplace.”

“The Regional Economic Development Plan identified workforce as one of this community’s most important economic development issues,” says Reid Dulberger, chief economic development officer for Memphis & Shelby County.  “This collaborative partnership is a big step toward an industry-driven solution.”

This Institute will include programs that are employer-driven and advanced laboratories that provide students access to real-world workplace environments. Employers will determine program outcomes and assist in the design of advanced laboratories that will include the actual equipment and processes that Institute graduates will encounter in the workplace.

“This is a great step forward for the Memphis area and the companies that do business here,” says JJ Zmudzinski, facility manager for Cargill Corn Milling and co-chair of the Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle “Harvard Tech” Committee. “This will help to establish regional focused programs in manufacturing and distribution with employer-driven skills for graduates, which is important in continuing to give students marketable, real-world experiences.”

“This initiative compliments our chamber’s involvement in recent years with the Medical Device Industry’s attempt to streamline their training program,” says John Threadgill, Bartlett Area Chamber president. “The Bartlett Chamber came to the realization after a comprehensive survey of the industry that in order for this sector to grow and prosper something radical had to happen in the area of workforce development. Since the survey we have been working closely with the industry and Southwest to establish a sustainable framework that will satisfy the region’s desire for new jobs while growing one of our community’s greatest economic assets.”

The Institute is also part of a broader effort to create a workforce development education pathway that includes concurrent credit high school programs and an efficient pathway to a baccalaureate degree.

“The University of Memphis is committed to work with the Colleges to provide the baccalaureate portion of the pathway,” says Dr. David Rudd, Provost of the University of Memphis

The colleges will share faculty, facilities, and equipment resources. Each college will manage their students of record, including enrollment in courses; financial aid and other student services; and, each college will retain their student semester credit-hour count, and certificate/degree completion.

“William R. Moore College of Technology looks forward to a partnership that will provide employers with a skilled workforce and the people of the Memphis region with access to training and education that prepare them for good jobs,” says Skip Redman, president of William R. Moore College of Technology.

Programs at the Institute will consist of stacked and latticed employer-driven one-semester credentials that provide students with the skills required for quick entry into employment. These one-semester programs of study will result in intermediate certificates and/or industry-recognized certifications that “stack” for award of the associate of applied science degree.

“This is great news,” says Jenifer McNelly president of the Manufacturing Institute (MI) which is an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. “MI is already working with both Colleges on U.S. Department of Labor grants that target the manufacturing and transportation, distribution, and logistics sectors. Aligning education and training at the community level is critical for growth. We stand ready to provide support for the new Institute.”

In the days ahead College staff will develop a roadmap to make the Institute a reality. This will include leveraging local, state and federal funding which will include, in the near term, submission of a proposal to the U.S. Department of Labor in response to a forthcoming solicitation for grant applications (SGA). These grants can provide up to $25 million for workforce development projects. It is anticipated that partners in this proposal will include community and technical colleges in the region and the University of Memphis.

The Greater Memphis Chamber's Chairman’s Circle is a leadership body created to engage Memphis business leaders on a variety of issues that affect Memphis and the Mid-South. The group’s intention is to cause transformational change through leadership working closely with civic partners and public officials.


Christina Meek
Greater Memphis Chamber
901-543-3504 (o)
901-517-6140 (c)
Dr. Nathan Essex
Southwest Tennessee Community College
(901) 333-4462
Dr. Glen Fenter
Mid-South Community College
(870) 733-6722