Grads question Hemlock jobs program - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Grads question Hemlock jobs program

CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Fewer than half of the students who graduated from a two-year chemical engineering program designed for Hemlock Semiconductor have been hired by the company. The program cost taxpayers more than $6 million.

The day Hemlock Semiconductor announced it was bringing 500 new jobs to Clarksville was a day of celebration.

The state stepped up to do its share, promising to provide an educated work force trained with the special skills the solar industry needs.

But some students who graduated from the specially-designed program at Austin Peay State University are disappointed they haven't been hired by Hemlock.

One student, who asked us not to use his name, started college at 34, and juggled raising a family with math and chemistry classes. He graduated with an associates degree in Chemical Engineering Technology, but says he doesn't know anyone in his graduating class who has been hired by Hemlock.

"It's real discouraging," the student told us. "That was the whole reason for taking the classes; to get a job at Hemlock."

"You feel like you wasted the last two years of your life," the student says.

It's easy to see why a student would think he's in a Hemlock jobs training program; it says "Hemlock" right on the front of the building where classes meet on Austin Peay's campus. The lab equipment inside was donated by Hemlock.

Hemlock declined an on-camera interview, but sent a written statement to Channel 4; saying, in part,  "Among the chemical process operators initially hired, a significant number of graduates from Austin Peay State University's chemical engineering technology program were selected based on their exhibited skills and knowledge of the industry."

The email goes on to say, "The program at APSU is like any other college degree program, employment after graduation is never guaranteed."

According to APSU's press releases from 2010, the state gave Austin Peay $6.4 million to develop the new program.

So far, according to APSU, 84 students have graduated in three separate classes.

Austin Peay estimates that about 35 of the program's graduates have been hired by Hemlock. APSU says they're not sure of the numbers, since the information is self-reported by graduates.

Given the two figures, the cost at Austin Peay so far of training each graduate who got a job  at Hemlock is $182,000.

If APSU's president is disappointed, he's not saying so.

"Oh, I think it's a spectacular result. The first thing to think about is universities are here for the long haul," says APSU's president, Tim Hall.

Hall says about 10 of the new graduates have gotten jobs at other companies, and APSU never thought Hemlock would be the only employer.

He says the new Hemlock building is used by other departments as well.

"We use every inch of space we can," Hall says.

But to some, the $15,000 education they thought would lead them down the road to success doesn't seem headed in the right direction.

"I feel mislead," says the student who remains unemployed after graduation. "I thought if I had this two-year associates degree, they would hire me."

Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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