Chattanooga State Partners with EPB’s On Ramp Program

December 14, 2020 | Betty A. Proctor | Internal Press Release

economic & workforce development flowchart to success

It’s been more than one year since EPB’s David Wade and Chattanooga State’s Bo Drake sat down to discuss the development of talent pools within our community. That discussion led to a Chattanooga State/EPB partnership designed to help identify individuals that would be a good fit for EPB’s inaugural nine-month program – Opportunity On Ramp.

According to Adam Collins, EPB’s talent and development lead, the traditional path has brought great talent into EPB, but he noted that there are other determined, hard-working individuals who have not had the chance to earn the prerequisite skills to join a company like EPB.

“I believe we have thousands of Chattanoogan’s who work on a daily basis, and consistently demonstrate employability skills,” shares Bo Drake, Chattanooga State’s Economic and Workforce Development (EWD) vice president. While many of these jobs are low wage and without opportunity for advancement, Drake believes these individuals would welcome the opportunity to expand their skills in exchange for a family-sustaining wage. The challenge then becomes obtaining the education needed without sacrificing needed income.

Since creating access to opportunity was the focus of On Ramp, Chattanooga State’s Chad Jaynes, solutions development manager, and Cynthia Brooks, lead program manager, collaborated with EPB’s Adam Collins to work with area non-profits in identifying applicants for the program. “Approximately 40 individuals interviewed for the available spaces in the class,” states Mr. Drake.

A recent survey by Strada Education Network indicated that more than 52% of Americans do not believe that a good job or advancement is within their reach. With substantial interest in work-based and online training programs, they rate partnerships between employers, education and training programs as the No. 1 factor to determine worth. Additionally, availability of work-based learning opportunities, such as apprenticeships and internships were the second- and third-biggest factors.

The On Ramp partnership is just one opportunity showcasing how EWD works collaboratively with businesses to develop solutions. “Additional programs like Skill Up and Chattanooga State’s apprenticeship programs do provide wages during classroom learning thereby allowing skill development and attainment to be the priority,” explains Drake.

“Our first step with any company is always to understand what the issues are,” assures Mr. Drake. “We never walk in the door with a solution already developed. Once we have a handle on the challenges, we can then begin talking through various solutions, while soliciting continual feedback to ensure a collective vision for whatever we develop.”

On Ramp graduates shared that they learned professional, communication, career and life skills, workplace etiquette, adaptability, goal setting and networking. “As part of EPB’s mission to enhance the quality of life for the people we serve, it is imperative that our workforce represents and benefits from the richness and diversity of our whole community,” states David Wade, EPB’s president and chief executive officer. “The On-Ramp program through Chattanooga State’s Economic and Workforce Development division helped us provide an intentional talent pipeline for working adults to develop their skills while advancing EPB’s mission.”

For more information about Chattanooga State’s Economic and Workforce Development Division and limitless possibilities, visit chattanoogastate.edu/economic-workforce-development or call (423) 697-3100.