GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – If you’ve tried doing any sort of construction project, you know how hard it is right now to find skilled labor. Vol State Community College wants to fix that.

They are recruiting students for brand-new programs. You don’t have to pay any tuition, and one program will even pay you.

When Nicholas Dillehay heard about the tuition-free program at Vol State, he thought it was too good to be true.

“They said, ‘once you graduate, you are almost guaranteed a job right after.’ You have people come in and supervise you and might offer you a job on the spot right then,” said Dillehay.

At 22 years old, Dillehay is about to embark on a program called the Heavy Equipment Academy. There are 400 job openings for heavy equipment operators in Middle Tennessee alone.

“I just wanted to try something new, try to open my mind, try to expand what I know, and try to make a career out of something,” said Dillehay.

“Everyone I talk to across the state is having the same issue. It’s really a problem across the country trying to find the workforce. So, we hope this program will help put people into that pipeline,” said Nick Bishop, vice president of economic development and regional centers at Vol State.

Nick Bishop has been teaming up with the private sector to launch these tuition-free programs at Vol State, and there are three kinds:

  • 6-week Heavy Equipment Academy, which the Middle TN Chapter of the National Utility Contractors Association, also knowns as NUCA, is funding.
  • 8-week Hard Hat in Hand, which teaches electrical, concrete and other trades, and pays the students $15 an hour for training
  • 2-week Industrial Readiness Training, which helps defendants in the criminal justice system start a new chapter with new skills

“We recognize that the university route and the degree route is not for everybody, but you still need to get some kind of certification, skill set, credential, and so we’re trying to create those multiple pathways for people to get there,” said Bishop.

Nicholas says he is excited to be one of the pioneer students, and if successful, he could graduate into a trade that pays anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 a year.

“To better my future, to try to get somewhere that I know I can be happy at, work hard at, and eventually retire,” said Dillehay.

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These tuition-free programs kick off next month, but Vol State still has openings. You can click here to register, or you can call 615-230-3321.