When Cameron Workman gets out of high school he won't just know how to work math problems, he will know how to use his math skills in real-world practical ways.
As a graduate of the technical program at East Ridge High School, he will have the opportunity to garner up to $50,000 in scholarship money to attend Chattanooga State's 2+2 program in partnership with the new vocational program. He can then go on to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to obtain a degree in construction management if he chooses.
"Companies are choosing Chattanooga because it's a great place to live and a great place to sell wares, and now it's a great place to go to school," said Roger Tuder, CEO of the Association of General Contractors for East Tennessee. "We were missing that before."
East Ridge, which has won two national academy awards in two years, has 111 students enrolled in its technical programs.
"It's only 111 students because that's all the state will allow," Tuder said.
The interest in the industry isn't one-sided; employers are handling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects as local entities like UTC, Alstom and Memorial undertake large-scale additions or renovations.
"We're in pretty good shape," Tuder said. "Go outside our radius of about 100 miles and the industry is really, really suffering. We're the envy of the nation actually. We're in the top five for economic growth. The folks in the construction industry are excited about where we are."
Where we are is definitely on the radar screen of companies around the world, Tuder said. He believes more good news like the "It's Chattanooga" front page story about Volkswagen moving in is in store.
"I think we're being aggressive. We're trying to get our message out there," he said.
Contractors are the country's second largest employer in the private sector, according to Tuder. He encourages more people to consider joining the industry, especially as the workforce demand in Chattanooga grows.
"Construction is not only dirty boots," he said in regards to the host of opportunities.