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Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center opens in Blount County

Blount County leaders Ruth and Steve West, fifth and sixth from left, celebrate the opening of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on Tuesday, Aug. 16

Blount County philanthropists Ruth and Steve West, fifth and sixth from left on the front row, celebrate the opening of the Workforce Development Center on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Pellissippi State Community College, the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville and community leaders from throughout Blount County celebrated the opening of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday. 

The $16.5 million workforce development center is located on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus in Friendsville, but also includes space for TCAT Knoxville and a Corporate Training Center for business and industry partners. 

“This workforce development center was created with Blount County partners to serve the Blount County community,” said Aneisa Rolen, executive director of the Pellissippi State Foundation. 

The 51,000-square-foot workforce development center was designed to help fill the area’s need for highly skilled, college-educated employees. Blount County has experienced $2.1 billion in new capital investment and announced 4,570 new jobs since 2015, according to the Blount Partnership. 

“The Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center will help us prepare Blount County students for high-demand careers that will sustain them and their families economically and allow them to stay right here at home instead of leaving in search of well-paying jobs,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. 

The workforce development center will include four Pellissippi State programs: 

  • Computer Information Technology, Cyber Defense and Networking concentrations 
  • Culinary Arts, including its new Baking and Pastry Arts option 
  • Business, Management and Hospitality Management concentrations  
  • Electrical Engineering Technology 

The building will include three TCAT Knoxville programs, giving that school its first footprint in Blount County: 

  • Industrial Maintenance/Mechatronics 
  • Machine Tool Technology 
  • Welding Technology 

“We are honored to bring TCAT Knoxville to Blount County,” said TCAT Knoxville President Kelli Chaney. “Developing and being a part of the coalition of educational providers, area businesses, community leaders and community organizations who are focused on promoting hands-on learning to the next generation is exciting and energizing! No one organization can do it alone. It takes all of us working together to drive economic and workforce development.” 

The workforce development center will allow Pellissippi State to increase its dual enrollment opportunities with Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County high schools, helping fill the local pipeline with educated and experienced employees. 

“It’s not like it was when I was young,” said philanthropist Steve West, longtime owner of West Chevrolet and a former mayor of Maryville. “A good attitude and willingness to learn, while important, are not enough in today’s economy. We need more specialized training to fill these jobs.” 

Meanwhile, the 3,250-square-foot corporate training center will increase the college’s capacity to provide training for industry partners. Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services already trains more than 4,000 individuals annually. 

“This facility is exactly what our employers need to train staff with the necessary skills to quickly introduce them into the workforce,” said Bryan Daniels, president and chief executive officer of Blount Partnership. “This is a huge asset for business retention.” 

In addition to the Wests, the workforce development center received significant donations from the Blount County Economic Development Board (Blount County Government, City of Maryville, City of Alcoa), Arconic Foundation, Appalachian Regional Commission, Blackberry Farm Foundation, Blount Memorial Hospital, Care Institute Group Inc., Clayton, Clayton Foundation, DENSO, William E. Harmon, Crissy and Bill Haslam, Ted and Drama Russell Family Foundation and The Thompson Charitable Foundation. 

Pellissippi State’s fall classes start Monday, Aug. 22. The Blount County Campus is located at 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Friendsville.