KINGSPORT, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee was in Kingsport Monday for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the old Sullivan High School, which has been transformed into the new Building Construction Technology Institute (BCTI).
Before cutting the ribbon, Lee spoke about how BCTI will help East Tennessee lure additional investments from companies and what this focus on construction technology education (CTE) means for students in Tennessee.
“This is incredibly important to me, because it’s incredibly important to the future of our state and to new students. It is changing the way we do high school. It’s changing the way we do post-secondary. It is enhancing what we’re doing in our four-year colleges,” Lee said. “This is important, not only because you students are the future of our state, but because our state is one of the most exciting, fast-growing states in America. We have an obligation to get prepared for them to make sure that any company that wants to come here knows that we’re going to have the workforce they need.”
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The Elizabethton Tennessee College of Applied Technology (ETCAT) is already hosting its building construction technology course at the new BCTI building, located at 2533 N John B Dennis Highway in Kingsport.
The first group of students began classes January 4.
Students who sign up for ETCAT’s building construction technology course receive hands-on residential construction education. They experience and learn everything from industry best practices and safety regulations, to how to construct and repair a home from the foundation up. Jamel Foster, the instructor of the course explained once students finish the course, they will have become at minimum a certified craft level-one carpenter.
Foster said the program is truly geared towards anyone who wants to go into residential construction work.
“It’s going to be geared to suit any trade you want to go to, and so our basic curriculum is to become a craft level one carpenter, and then from that you can build on your HVAC, plumbing and electrical journeyman level certificate,” he said.
Brandy Maney, who alongside her four children is a member of the first cohort of students taking the ETCAT building construction technology course, spoke about what it has been like to learn as a family from someone with first-hand experience, and why she will require all her future employees to take ETCATs building technology course.
“None of us actually like school, but coming here, we love it,” she said. “We show up every day, and we actually look forward to coming to class. It’s not like, ‘Hey, you have to be there,’ they just love it,” Maney said. “I’m hoping that anybody that I hire going forward will come from this class. That way, they’ll be competent to be able to work.”
Foster, whose family has been in the construction business for at least three generations, spoke about why he switched lanes from working in construction to becoming an instructor.
“I felt more of a calling coming into a career like this,” he said. “It allows me to impact more lives in a positive way. The way I look at it is, let’s say I want to build you know 1,000 to 10,000 homes in my lifetime. Well, if I educate 1,000 people they go out and build one home each that’s 1,000 homes I have vicariously built. You can build up a community. You can start up a bunch of spec houses, but what happens in 15 years? What happens in 20 years? Those houses deteriorate, and so teaching people how to come in and remodel and ultimately continue to make that neighborhood great is what’s really going to separate this community from the rest of them.”
Lee said he was proud of how the different public and private sectors of Kingsport came together to solve an issue that has challenged East Tennessee.
“This community has come together to solve a problem, and the problem is that there are not enough workers to fill the required opportunities that are out there,” Lee said. “I commend the folks in this community that have come together, including the businesses, the nonprofits, the private sector, to make this happen.”