Kingsport, TN (PRWEB) June 16, 2011

Located in Northeast Tennessees Tri-Cities region, Kingsport, an award-winning community of 50,000, is the home of Eastman Chemical Company and a number of other advanced manufacturing industries. It is also the home of the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM), a new addition to downtown Kingsports Academic Village, which was recently recognized by Harvards Kennedy School of Business, and the National League of Cities. Kingsports Mayor Dennis Phillips is especially proud of his citys commitment to education and training.

Weve invested more than $20 million dollars of taxpayers money into the Academic Village, the mayor said. That initiative has brought national attention to Kingsport and really spurred economic growth.

Jeff Fleming, assistant city manager for development, has the figures to prove that Kingsports educational investment has paid off. When you compare 1990 to 2010 in Kingsport, the citys population has increased by 30 percent, and the median family income went up by $20,000 a year, Fleming said. The poverty rate went down, while the number of Bachelors Degrees and Associates Degrees went up. Collectively as a community, we all are doing the things that we need to do to be sustainable for the long term.

Its possible to get a four-year degree as well as dozens of degrees and certificates in everything from nursing to welding at Kingsports Academic Village. The RCAM facility works closely with industry to provide training for high tech manufacturing jobs. In fact, RCAM was conceived by the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a joint venture comprised of Eastman Chemical Company, Domtar Paper, local and state governments, and Northeast State Community College.

RCAM is a 26,000 sq. ft. facility designed specifically for advanced manufacturing training. The combination of knowledgeable instructors and state of the art training simulation equipment, like its virtual welder, provides graduates with the skills they need to hit the ground running in nearly a dozen apprenticeship programs lasting two to four years.

Domtar provided the land for RCAM and it has already benefited from the apprenticeship program. We just graduated our first class of five apprentices from the Domtar Paper Mill, Charles Floyd, Domtars mill manager and vice president said. As journeymen they now earn 60 percent more in terms of their take home pay, and they have the skills and the knowledge that we need to efficiently maintain and operate the complex, precision equipment in the mill.

Industries throughout the region and beyond are looking to RCAM to help them replace some of the more than 76 million Baby Boomers retiring during the next 10 to 20 years. Their exodus will create a skills crisis as they take their lifetime knowledge with them leaving job vacancies that demand advanced training. Miles Burdine, Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerces CEO, believes facilities like RCAM can fill the gap.

RCAM serves as a link between workers needing new skills and manufacturers needing qualified workers, Burdine said. People call me all the time asking for jobs and I tell them that regional employers have jobs, but they need skilled workers to fill them.

Eastman Chemical Companys Brian Miller, division superintendent of maintenance and services, agrees with Burdine that RCAM is a working solution to the skills crisis facing the nation. In the next three to fours years, we anticipate losing another 300 to 400 employees due to retirement, Miller said. Weve got to have a good solid pipeline of new employees coming in to fill that need.

RCAM is already fast becoming a national model of industry funded and supported facilities for both traditional and non-traditional students seeking advanced manufacturing technology training in key areas such as general technology, chemical process operations, electromechanical technology, electrical technology, and welding/metal fabrication.

Jeff Frazier, RCAMs director of training and development, is confident that the RCAM concept will spread. As we incubate the idea of technology training, we can provide students with the right tools to succeed, Frazier said. If we can show them that manufacturing careers are not only exciting, but rewarding, then weve added an intrinsic value to their lives that might not otherwise be there.

For more information about Kingsport Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, visit manufacturingfuture.net, or call 423.354.5149