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JECDB seeking skilled workers
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

According to those responsible for recruiting new jobs in Wilson County and also decision makers in existing industries here, the demand for skilled employees has never been at the level that it is today.

“We have industries knocking on our door almost weekly that are interested in locating in Wilson County,” said G.C. Hixson, executive director of the county’s Joint Economic and Community Development Board, the quasi-governmental agency that oversees industrial and commercial development locally, “and almost always their first question is about the available workforce.”

Hixson said industrial prospects as well as companies that are here and looking to expand are seeking employees with skills.

He classified the need for a skilled workforce as the “greatest challenge” facing his office.

Royce Slaven, president of Orchid International, an automotive parts supplier located in Mt. Juliet, said about 25 percent of his company’s total workforce today is comprised of skilled workers.

And Jim Stoll at Mayekawa USA, a company with operations in Lebanon’s South Perimeter Industrial Park, tells a similar story.

Stoll says that about 30 percent of Mayekawa employees here are in what he would classify as skill positions.

Skilled workers are described as welders, electricians, IT specialists, and others who have received special training in a particular field that warrants they have attained a certain level of accredited expertise.

Much of what Hixson is saying about the need for skill workers is being echoed by the local industrial community.

“As we shift more to technology, our need for more skilled workers is going to increase. We now are having to recruit out of state to fill many of our skill positions and about a third are commuting from outside the county,” Slaven said.

Slaven’s company, in Wilson County for some 20 years, manufacture’s a variety of hinges for the automobile industry and is one of the nation’s largest suppliers of its kind providing millions of door, console and other types of hinges annually.

Stoll said Mayekawa has been able to fill jobs requiring certain skills with “people from the surrounding area, but the quality of applicants is less than optimal.”

Most of the skill jobs at Mayekawa, a manufacturer of high quality air compressors and other associated products, are welders and electricians.

Just as Slaven, Stoll said he anticipates an even greater need for skilled workers in the next three to five years.

The latest buzz word being applied to a specific category of skilled workers is mechatronics, which, Hixson explains, is a combination of mechanical, electrical, and computer based engineering, and is one of the “hottest” career tracks being pursued nationwide.

For Wilson County to remain competitive in the pursuit to build quality employment opportunities, Hixson said “we must lean on our leaders in education to help us first impress upon students that the need is present and then provide for them the necessary avenues and teaching settings to learn these skills.”

He said the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, a state institute to open in Lebanon in the spring on the campus of the former Lebanon High School, is one example of a “major step in the right direction toward resolving the void in the skill workforce.

Hixson credited members of the county commission and other local government leaders for recognizing the value and need of this special opportunity afforded Wilson County a couple of years ago and seeing that necessary infrastructure and funding was put in place to meet the requirements imposed by the state.

“This is a beginning and a very good beginning,” Hixson said, “but in order to be successful we must take our message about the need for a skilled workforce to our high schools.”

Another important and timely initiative for the skilled workforce need, Hixson pointed out, is the Tennessee Promise program, which beginning with the class of 2015, will provide Tennessee high school graduates the opportunity to attend a community or technical college free of tuition and fees.

“Ultimately to be successful we are going to have to impress upon students 16 to 18 years old that there are going to be good jobs available for them with good pay, good benefits and long term stability if they will pursue and master a technical skill,” Hixson said.

Slaven, speaking along the same lines, urged public schools to recognize the need for technical training saying “seeds are going to have to be planted” in order to grow a skilled workforce for the future.

According to Slaven, it’s not unusual for a seasoned technician or skilled worker to earn a “six figure salary.” He said parents should be encouraging their children to take a look at other options besides insisting that they go to college.

 
Mayors support suicide prevention awareness
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Mayors of Wilson County recently got together to show their support for Suicide Prevention Awareness. 

Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Phillip Craighead and Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings all signed proclamations for the cause. 

In Tennessee, an estimated 900 men, women, and children die by suicide each year. More people die by suicide each year than from homicide, AIDS, or drunk driving. Suicide is the leading cause of violent deaths in our state, nationally, and worldwide, far above homicide and death due to natural disasters.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among youth and young adults ages 15-24 in Tennessee and throughout the entire nation. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were 956 recorded suicide deaths in our state in 2012, at a rate of 14.8 per 100,000 people.   In 2013 there were 1,017 deaths by suicide.  In 2012, there were 15 deaths by suicide in Wilson  County which is a rate of 12.6 per 100,000.  In 2013, there were 12 which is a rate of 9.8 per 100,000.

In almost all cases, suicide can be traced to unrecognized, untreated, or poorly treated mental illness. It can happen to people of either sex, any race or ethnicity, and any economic status. The average suicide death leaves behind six survivors—family and friends of the deceased—all of who are at increased risk for a suicide attempt themselves. As if the emotional and psychological toll were not enough, suicide and suicide attempts cost the state of Tennessee $1 billion a year in medical treatment, lost wages, and lost productivity.

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) and its allies in the public health, mental health, and social service fields are joining forces to recognize the month of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. During this annual observance, TSPN and its allies arrange several educational and memorial events across Tennessee. These projects help teach the general public about the problem of suicide and how it can be prevented. They also give us an opportunity to remember those lost to suicide; to encourage survivors of suicide, survivors of suicide attempts, and people who have triumphed over mental illness; and to recognize individuals who have made notable contributions to suicide prevention efforts in our state.  There will be two events in Wilson  County, one will be on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. in Mt. Juliet next to the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ on  Mt. Juliet Road.   The second event will be on Sept. 30 at 6 p.m.  on the campus of Cumberland  University.  Both of these events are being sponsored by the Wilson County Health Council and other community partners.

 
Firehouse donates to local first responders
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kenny Howell

Managing Editor

Firehouse Subs made another donation to first responders, this time totaling more than $62,000. 

At an event held at the Mt. Juliet Firehouse Subs Thursday, the restaurant donated to Wilson Emergency Management Agency, as well as Cannon County Rescue Squad and the Baxter Fire Department. 

The donation to WEMA was for a fit test machine, which tests the masks of first responders to make sure they properly fit. WEMA has to outsource the test now, so this will save them money. They are also going to share it with all the first responder agencies in the county throughout the year to save them money as well. 

 
Taco Bell in Providence burns
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kenny Howell

Managing Editor

The Taco Bell in Providence Marketplace suffered significant damage Sunday morning, as a structure fire blazed through the building. 

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Donated home burned for training
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Local fire departments got a rare chance to live fire training exercise thanks to some homeowners demolishing their home. 

On Saturday, Aug. 30, a joint venture training exercise was held between the Fire Department for the City of Mt. Juliet and Wilson County Emergency Management Agency on S. Lakeview Drive just off S. MJ Road.  

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