Get (Future) Ready: Hamilton County Schools Empower Next Generation of Talent

By NATALIA PEREZ, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS INTERN

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a question kids are challenged with from a young age, typically as soon as they express interest in any particular hobby.  

Generally, we pour resources into aiding young minds in their search for the answer: afterschool programs, clubs, internships and career fairs. 

For Hamilton County Schools, there’s been a methodical, hands-on approach in connecting the next generation of aspiring engineers, health care workers, business moguls and software and IT workers with promising career paths. 

This approach, called the Future Ready Institutes initiative, consists of 29 industry-themed institutes embedded in local high schools, aimed specifically at preparing high school students to enter Chattanooga’s various in-demand industries. This project is the brainchild of Superintendent Bryan Johnson, who pitched the idea after taking the helm of the district in 2017. 

Branded partners like Erlanger, See Rock City Inc. and EPB commit at least $250,000 over the course of three years to partner with an institute and offer opportunities including job shadowing, field trips, guest speakers and mentors for students enrolled in each institute.

As part of the Chattanooga Chamber’s Talent Initiatives to develop the area’s workforce and support Hamilton County Schools, the Chamber's Talent Initiatives team partnered to relaunch the Get (Future) Ready (GFR) event for eighth-graders, a rebranding on what was formerly known as “Career Crunch.

This two-day annual event -- held for the second time virtually on Jan. 14-15 of this year -- gave over 2,000 middle schoolers across the county a chance to interact with Future Ready Institutes and find out what schools would be the best fit. It also helped give students a taste of the opportunities in industries like aviation, health care and medicine, business and IT and advanced manufacturing. 

After a booming success last year with over 3,000 student attendees, GFR had to navigate how to host this large event virtually in 2021. 

“We were really disappointed we couldn’t host a big career expo like we did last year,” says Olivia Bagby, District Lead for Future Ready Institutes of Hamilton County, and one of the event organizers and coordinators. “We had just revamped it last year and had a ton of success, but we weren’t able to copy that structure and make it better, we had to redo the whole thing. Then we started thinking ‘How can we make this more than just a website?’ We did not want this to be just a link we sent to eighth-graders and say ‘Check it out!’ We wanted it to still feel like an event.”

Throughout the duration of the two-day event, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., participating students were able to log on to several virtual booths, or Zoom calls hosted by each Institute, where teachers and student ambassadors were ready to receive students and answer questions about the Institutes and what they offer. Students were also able to take YouScience aptitude tests to help create their career pathways and reference their data points, career pathways and all other information needed from the event site.

Eighth grader Chitra Karunanithi at Hunter Middle School spoke about how the event was both informative and exciting. Karunanithi, who is interested in a career in the sciences, said that she wants to attend a Future Ready school to stay motivated and encouraged to do her best while preparing for college. 
 
Chitra says her school counselor, Ryan Jacobs, first worked with her to figure out what future careers she would be interested in, which gave her guidance on what programs to look at. 

“Get Future Ready helped show me the different career options and what Future Ready programs would be a good match for me,” Karunanithi says. She noted the website was easy to navigate and helped inform her decision-making by comparing and contrasting different Future Ready programs.

“It was also really encouraging,” she says, and she now feels more confident and excited about attending a Future Ready program and preparing for college.


2021-22 Future Ready Institutes of Hamilton County

Institute of Aviation at Brainerd High School
• Automotive Maintenance Light Repair
• Aviation Flight
• Supply Chain Management

Institute of Entrepreneurship at Brainerd High School
• Entrepreneurship
• Culinary Arts
• Cosmetology

Institute of Law, First Responders and Forensic Science at Brainerd High School
• Criminal Justice and Correctional Services
• Emergency Services

Bryan College Institute of Leadership, Business, and Marketing at East Hamilton High School
• Business Management

Institute of Innovate Engineering at East Hamilton High School
• Engineering
• Advanced STEM Applications

Institute of Engineering and Design at East Ridge High School
• Architectural and Engineering Design
• Interior Design
• Digital Arts and Design
• Audio/Visual Production

Institute of Building Construction at East Ridge High School
• Structural Systems
• Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Systems

CEMPA Institute of Leadership and Public Health at East Ridge High School School
• JROTC
• Cybersecurity
• Emergency Services

Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and Construction at Harrison Bay Center
• Mechatronics
• Welding

Institute of Architecture and Engineering Design at Harrison Bay Center
• Architectural and Engineering Design

Institute of Integrative Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Hixson High School
• Veterinary and Animal Science
• Food Science
• Environmental and Natural Resources

CHI Memorial Institute of Healthcare and Medical Careers at Hixson High School
• Therapeutic Service
• Diagnostic Services
• Nursing Services
• Sports and Human Performance

Institute of Business Leaders and Owners at Hixson High School
• Office Management
• Diagnostic Services
• Therapeutic Services

Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation at The Howard School
• Diagnostic Services
• Therapeutic Services

See Rock City Inc. Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management at The Howard School
• Culinary Arts
• Hospitality and Tourism

Institute of Robotics and Welding at The Howard School
• Mechatronics
• Welding

Institute of Architecture and Construction at The Howard School
• Architectural and Engineering Design
• Structural Systems

Institute of Technology and Engineering at Lookout Valley Middle/High School
• Technology
• Audio/Visual Production

Institute of Automotive Maintenance and Manufacturing at Lookout Valley Middle/High School
• Maintenance and Light Repair
• Automotive Collision Repair

UTC Institutes of International Baccalaureate Studies at Ooltewah High School
• Institutes of International Baccalaurette

BlueCross Technology Academy at Red Bank High School
• Coding/Computer Science
• Engineering

Institute of Construction, Engineering, and Design at Sale Creek School
• Structural Systems
• Technology

Institute of Social Media Marketing and Sports Management at Red Bank High School
• Marketing Management
• Supply Chain Management

Institute of Media and Entrepreneurship at Soddy Daisy High School
• Audio/Visual Production
• Entrepreneurship
• Web Design

BlueCross Technology Academy at Soddy Daisy High School
• Coding/Computer Science

EPB Institute of Technology and Networking at Tyner Academy
• Networking
• Coding/Computer Science

UTC Institute of Teaching and Learning at Tyner Academy
• Teaching as a Profession

Institute of Health Sciences at Tyner Academy
• Therapeutic Services
• Sports and Human Performance