Nov. 2—Scouts of America is known for teaching members how to tie knots and pitch tents, but what about the merit badges for welding and plumbing?
With a new facility being built in Wilson County, scouts can earn these and a whole lot more.
Officials from the Boy Scouts of America Middle Tennessee Council (BSA-MTC) recently held a groundbreaking ceremony at Lebanon's Boxwell Scout Reservation for a facility designed to hold courses in those areas. Through those courses, those officials plan to offer scouts hands-on experience in what could become potential career fields.
Linda Carter, the associate development director for BSA-MTC, said that with any hope, the facility might spark an interest in a scout's mind about what they want their future to look like.
Training tomorrow's skilled-trades workers is a major driving force behind this project.
"There has been no greater time than the present when the training of skilled trades workers has been more needed," said (Ret.) U.S. Army Major General William B. Hickman and chair of BSA-MTC's skilled trades committee. "For some time, our state and country have seen a gap in the number of job openings in the skilled-trades industries and the number of trained workers available to fill them."
According to Hickman, the stability afforded to employees in those fields should make them appealing professions. He called careers such as electricians, plumbers and welders, "well-paying, secure and satisfying."
The organization plans to have the facility ready by the summer of 2022.
Each year, the Boxwell Scout Reservation serves as a destination for scouts from across the region to visit for a week-long summer camp. During those summer-camp excursions, the trades center will be available to scouts ages 13-18. Carter estimates that more than 900 scouts will be able to use the facility.
Merit-badge courses that will be offered include automotive maintenance, electricity, home repair, painting, plumbing and welding, in addition to a classroom for presentations in areas such as American business, American labor and architecture.
Chairman Bill Freeman of Freeman Webb, Inc., a property management company in Nashville, spoke during the groundbreaking about how vital those professionals are in today's market.
"As someone who has been involved in the building and real-estate industry for decades, I have seen first-hand how a shortage of workers trained in the skilled-trades fields can negatively impact our community's growth," Freeman said. "What the Middle Tennessee Council is doing to address this need by building a skilled-trades center at Boxwell Scout Reservation is very forward-thinking ... and I applaud them for this effort."
Scout executive of the BSA-MTC, Larry Brown, explained that the project will be one-of-a-kind.
"I am not aware of another council in the country with a free-standing facility to be used specifically for introducing scouts to skilled trades," said Brown.
The scout executive feels that while the prospect of earning merit badges is on every scout's mind, propelling themselves into a lifelong hobby or future career can prove equally rewarding.
"Our country needs people trained in the skilled trades who have also gained the values and integrity taught by the scouting program," Brown said. "This will be an important way for the council to help with that effort."
The facility will be named after Roy Grindstaff, a long-time electrician from Middle Tennessee and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Grindstaff's daughter, Robin Grindstaff Hurdle, is president of The Maddox Foundation, the project's lead donor.