An agreement signed this week by Southwest Tennessee Community College President Tracy D. Hall and Roland Rayner, Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Memphis president showcases a shift in the two institutions approach to workforce development and education. (Courtesy photo)

Southwest Tennessee Community College President Tracy D. Hall and Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Memphis (TCAT-Memphis) President Roland Rayner are beaming about a partnership designed to make advanced training in automotive technology more accessible, affordable and effective.

“This partnership represents a shift in our approach to workforce development and education in the Mid-South,” Hall said during an announcement on Monday.

The articulation agreement between Southwest and TCAT-Memphis enables students who earn a TCAT-Memphis automotive certificate or diploma to matriculate to Southwest more easily and affordably as they pursue advanced credentials in automotive technology.

“We are not competitors, but partners in the quest to empower residents with credentials that lead to a better job, career and quality of life,” Hall said.

Effective with the new agreement, TCAT-Memphis automotive technology graduates now are able to transfer up to 28 TCAT-Memphis credits to Southwest, enabling them to earn an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Automotive Technology degree in two semesters.
TCAT-Memphis President Roland Rayner said the agreement is a win for students and his institution.

“Our students’ investment in their training at TCAT-Memphis can be applied toward an advanced degree that will empower them to better compete for jobs at high-volume automotive shops and for leadership opportunities,” Rayner said. “We offer excellent training at TCAT-Memphis and now this partnership will allow our students to continue on a fantastic career pathway.”

The automotive program at Southwest is on the move, nearly tripling the number of completers from 5 to 19 between 2016 and 2017. “The Southwest program has the ability to graduate up to 50 students a year,” Southwest Vice President for Academic Affairs Chris Ezell said. “Our students also are eligible to apply for Tennessee Reconnect scholarships, which means a degree, tuition- free. It’s a win-win for local students and employers.”

The articulation agreement is just one of more to come. A computer technology agreement will activate in the spring and one for the nursing program next fall.

Southwest recently invested $175,000 to upgrade its Automotive Technology lab at the Macon Cove campus. The College purchased seven new cars and a state-of-the-art alignment machine that, according to Business and Technology Dean Robin Cole, can align vehicles built as far back as 1948 through 2019.

“This machine is what our students will use when they get jobs as automotive technicians at dealerships and other high-volume outfits. It’s the same technology,” he said.

The new, late-model vehicles include a hybrid car, one flex fuel car, one hybrid pick-up truck and a Camaro with a turbo charge system (to train students on high performance fuel injection).

“Each vehicle was chosen to address a specific training focus to ensure our students are equipped with the skills dealership shops and other employers seek,” Cole said. “We also upgraded our wireless engine analyzer to address auto technology through 2020.”