Little did Minister and Department of Defense engineer Jefferson H. Taylor realize as he gazed out from the first church he'd shepherded in Memphis (Church of the Living God) back in the 1940s, but he was looking at the future of where his legacy would lead.
A pioneer in military technology, Taylor created the first automated conveyor belts in Memphis, and would continue to serve teaching engineering to others in the community with Junior Achievement. It was a lesson in service that his grandson Kier Thomas, Executive Director of Western Tennessee A&M, continued some 60 years later by developing a workforce trade and training program through the trade school.
The school now has 150 tech courses, and combined with their heart for the military and their community, they sought funding to offer training to members of the military at no cost. With the support of a Walmart Family Grant, West Tennessee A&M can fulfill their mission to "educate the community regarding the impacts of science and technology careers" at no cost to this special and deserving student population.
Having helped more than 200 veterans since its start in 2013, Thomas explained the role of the school in re-establishing military veterans into the private sector.
"Really, people who come to us from a military background have transferrable skills, but the classifications that they put on their resumes don't translate as well," he said. "Often their service is classified as 'General Duty," but in reality they are very highly skilled in tech positions when they serve. It's our job then to take what's in their background and help them build a resume that others can interpret for careers that are available. Ultimately, we knew we couldn't service what we couldn't measure, so we made sure to incorporate assessments in order to fast track them to employment."
Thomas reached out to ER2 to see how our available technology could serve their mission even more effectively, and the 200 laptops we were able to supply them have made a significant impact.
(Operations Support Manager Doug Green, Kier and Operations Manager Rocky Jackson with the tech tools that will help Western Tennessee A&M's military tech education and training programs succeed.)
"It may seem a small thing, but really it's huge. Our students often come in with their own personal devices, which can mean varying degrees of access and efficiency to online tools. Having the same equipment offering the same applications and specifications helps level the playing field for all of our students to succeed," Thomas explained.
He was quick to add that he hoped the partnership would not end there, with the idea of expanding into local Charter Schools to introduce STEM education, particularly with regard to medical technology. (We're all ears, by the way.)
It's partnerships like these that make us proud to embrace the culture that we do, with a shared vision to continuously improve and serve others.
Thomas thought the location of ER2 in Memphis was familiar when he came for a recent visit of our facilities. As he looked back across the street, he was looking at his grandfather's first church.
"I call that a Godwink moment," he said.