January 9, 2018 5:15 PM, EST

Cummins Brings TEC Outreach Program to Tennessee

TEC students Darrin Mellinger/Cummins Inc.

Cummins Inc. has launched its first Technical Education for Communities initiative in the United States, in conjunction with 10 Memphis, Tenn.-area education and industry partners.

The Memphis effort joins 21 others globally that have trained more than 1,000 students and target the technical skills gap through local vocational education programs.

It will operate at Memphis’ T-STEM Academy at East High School, with which Cummins Sales and Service Gulf Region distributorship already had a relationship, said Darrin Mellinger, corporate responsibility leader at the company.

The TEC program delivers a standardized education platform to help schools develop market-relevant curriculum, teacher training, career guidance and the practical experience needed by students, according to the Columbus, Ind.-based company.

Cummins’ partners are FedEx Freight, General Truck Sales and Service Inc., Memphis Area Transit Authority, Ozark Motor Lines Inc., Penske Truck Leasing Co., Peterbilt Truck Centers, TAG Truck Center, Tri-State Truck Center and Summit Truck Group.

Cummins outlined how partners can add value at TEC sites, including needs assessments, market studies and dialogue with local government and schools to ensure that students are taught skills that are relevant to the local labor market. Partners also aid with internships, apprenticeships and job shadowing as well as by training teachers on new technology, teaching classes and mentoring students.

Funding equipment purchases or programs such as teacher training and guidance counseling are other opportunities for involvement, the company said.

Employers around the world are experiencing critical shortages of skilled technical workers. At the same time, education programs often fail to teach students the skills needed by employers, according to Cummins.

A TEC student’s next step after the program may be pursuing higher education at a post-secondary school, entering the work force immediately or entering a company’s apprenticeship program and learning new skills on the job, Mellinger said.

“Our ultimate goal for all TEC students is to take their foundational knowledge from the classroom and land a good job,” he said.

The program is a chance for the T-STEM Academy at East High School to serve as a model, according to Executive Director Lischa Brooks.

The program will illustrate how high schools and post-secondary education institutions can collaborate with industry partners “to provide an amazing experience for students,” she said in a statement.

The T-STEM Academy, in partnership with the University of Memphis and various industry partners, is a magnet school providing a rigorous, college preparatory curriculum for students to help them succeed in STEM careers.

No other TEC initiatives in the United States are planned at this time, Mellinger said. “But we are open to considering any location where a Cummins business leader identifies an opportunity to make an impact,” he said.

The initiative began in 2012. Locations in China, India and Morocco were among the first sites, each managed by an employee whose primary work focus is TEC, he said. At that time, company leaders discovered and reacted to a growing gap in the availability of skilled workers and the harm it was causing communities.