ACT business training center opens at Tennessee Tech

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
The ACT Training and Testing Center had its official grand opening on Tuesday morning at the Tennessee Technology Center in Elizabethton. Educators hope the region's on-line and distance education training opportunities enhance job skills for employers and employees in Elizabethton and beyond.
"This is going to be something beneficial for everyone in upper East Tennessee," said Jerry Patton, director of the Tennessee Technology Center. "We expect to do a lot of training in Southwest Virginia and North Carolina as well."
The ACT Center will offer more than 3,000 on-line courses approved through ACT Company and the Tennessee Board of Regents, Patton said. The ACT Center in Elizabethton is one of six centers in the state.
The Center's courseware library makes the possibility of just-in-time, on-demand training a reality. The Center offers workplace skills assessments, continuing education, distance learning with Web-based technology, and licensure tests for several professions.
Patton and the center's director, Roberta Bowers said the online education would have more oversight and demands for students than most distance learning education that often saw a washout of students.
"One reason our online learning is not going as fast as expected is there is no accountability on the part of the learner," said Bowers. The Center will use learning managers to gauge student progress on distance education to keep the educational process active, she added.
The ACT Center's professional development services provide an array of customized measurement, research, and evaluation designed to help professional and trade organizations, businesses, federal and state government agencies, and institutions evaluate individuals' knowledge and skills, as well as the effectiveness of their training programs.
ACT's Work Keys Estimator links to the Work Keys occupational profiles, which identify skill levels for an occupation across jobs, companies, or industries. Using Work Keys assists employers in identifying workers for skilled jobs and allows students and workers to advance their employability skills.
ACT Center staff will also provide assessment, consulting, job analysis, instructional design support, research, reporting, and related services focused on workplace-relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Bowers also said companies and students could pick and choose the courses they needed without being locked into buying a package of courses for a higher price.
"You can mix and match to meet the needs of your organization," she said.
The company opened its first ACT Center in July of 2000 at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. ACT has since opened scores of Centers across the nation in partnership with colleges and technical schools. "ACT's role is to support the school here," said Rob Williamson, with the ACT Southeast office. Williamson said 90 percent of the Center's courses were functioning as Web-based with 100 percent operating as online courses by March.
Once known primarily as administrators of the college entrance exam, the ACT company began evolving into a business training megastore for the private sector in the mid-1990s. Private companies ranging from small enterprises to Fortune 500s -- use ACT's workforce development programs for hiring and training processes, increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve corporate success.
Patton said the state's high school dropout rate and low number of college graduates hampered economic development. When the private sector industries or entrepreneurs sought well-trained workers, they looked for the best educated, he said.
"We want to see a better quality of life with more jobs, better jobs, for this area," said Patton.
Bowers said she was currently developing a proposal for a private company that would be the first to take advantage of the Center's opportunities.