TJC's Fall Convocation held Monday

Published on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 13:39 - Written by Betty Waters blw@tylerpaper.com

Tyler Junior College and higher education in general have a close relationship with the community and play a vital role in local economic development, speakers told faculty at the college’s fall convocation Monday.

Market researchers who conducted a recent survey said they had never found a place like TJC with the support, love and goodwill toward the college that TJC has, Dr. Mike Metke, president, said.

Researchers talked about how they had heard from leaders around Tyler about how passionate they are about TJC and how solid the college’s brand is in the region, Metke said.

TJC is viewed as the leading partner in economic development, and many people in the business community said they could not do their job without TJC, he added, but noted a difference in the perception of how college personnel see themselves.

“It struck me that maybe we haven’t done as good a job internally of communicating some of the things we are doing,” Metke said, explaining that he had asked Tom Mullins to speak about TJC’s impact.

A lot of people don’t see the connection between the community growing and what goes on at TJC, said Mullins, president/CEO for Tyler Economic Development Council.

Tyler has become a center for higher education with 20,000 full-time students spread among TJC, The University of Texas at Tyler and Texas College, Mullins said.

That fact “speaks loudly to companies that are looking for sites to invest in because they need to know that they can get the skilled workforce that they need,” Mullins said.

One of the EDC’s first projects was the opening of a new skills development training center that had 25,000 square feet of space for an incubator and small-business development center in partnership with TJC, the chamber and Southwestern Bell, Mullins said.

Under construction on the TJC west campus is an expansion of the energy center called Luminant Academy for training young people for various highly skilled positions.

“We wanted them to stay in Tyler. They had options to go to other communities and other higher education centers. We were able to work together with the city and EDC and Smith County to help put a financial package together to expand that center,” Mullins said.

Within about two blocks of the energy center is Tyler ISD’s new career education technology center.

“It’s not a coincidence (the center) is located within that area of town. Tyler ISD wanted to be close to TJC and wanted to coordinate programs (so) young people could start technical careers and looking at options earlier and then have the ability to matriculate to the higher education system,” Mullins said.

“We are working closely for curriculum development for high school students to move through that process and into higher education and ultimately into the work force.”

The new nursing school under construction on the TJC main campus received tremendous support from the community, Mullins said, noting it will connect the medical sector and TJC.

A new pharmacy school at UT Tyler represents a regional effort, he observed.

What’s interesting about these four projects — the energy center, the nursing school, the center for technological education and the pharmacy school — is they were all approved in a 12-month period and two of them had to go to voters, Mullins said. “It would take a lot of communities years just to put one of these projects together.”

“For 20 years, we’ve been reading stories about companies leaving the U.S. and going to Mexico. Trane is moving its product line from Monterey back to Tyler, stabilizing the work force here and adding new technology and new jobs,” Mullins said.

TJC is “totally engaged and very, very involved with the community,” Metke said, saying it is surprising how many partnerships the college has.

He cited a new partnership with East Texas Medical Center and also a partnership with UT Health Northeast to help meet dental care needs.

Metke noted another development of an early college high school at Chapel Hill ISD and an early college that will launch in Tyler ISD in 2015, with students to graduate from both programs with a degree from TJC at the same time they get their high school diploma.

Metke pointed to numerous other TJC programs, some in Lindale, Jacksonville and Rusk, and a partnership with Suddenlink that trains students in customer service