IPS Celebrates 50 Years

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: The Evolution of IPS

Fifty years. Six current agencies. More than $1.43 billion annual benefit to the state economy.

Since its creation in 1971, the Institute for Public Service (IPS) has amassed an impressive history of outreach, taking UT’s experts and expertise into communities statewide to improve government, industry, law enforcement and others. From the start, its end-goal has remained the same: improving the lives of Tennesseans.

IPS was established to serve as an umbrella organization for a number of smaller agencies. Over the years, agencies have come and gone as IPS leaders defined and refined the mission of IPS.

Two IPS agencies — the municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) and the Center for Industrial Services (CIS)existed before the umbrella organization was created. When IPS was created, it also became home for the Center for Government Training (established in 1967 and dissolved in 2001), and the Civil Defense Program (established in 1963). Through the years, IPS served as the parent organization for agencies, including the Government, Industry, Law Center (created in 1963 and dissolved in 1973, after moving to IPS); the Technical Assistance Center (created in 1970); and the Critical Care Education Program (created in 1971 and dissolved in 1998); and the Center for Telecommunications and Video (created in 1985 and later moved elsewhere).

Today, IPS is funded through state and local appropriations, grants and contracts, fees and program income, and its endowment and gifts. In 2020, IPS answered more than 40,000 requests for assistance, trained more than 29,000 municipal, county, and state employees, manufacturers, law enforcement personnel, and others. It helped create or support more than 15,000 jobs statewide.

Here’s a look at the six major divisions of IPS today:

Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

MTAS was created in 1949 by Tennessee lawmakers at the urging of the Tennessee Municipal League. Its mission was – and still is — to provide outreach for governmental entities akin to what the Agricultural Extension Service provides to farmers statewide. Its services include technical assistance in finance and accounting, human resources, research and information, codification and law, municipal management, public safety, public utilities, and public works through consultants and in-person and online training.

Today, the agency’s 50 staff members are based in Knoxville, Memphis, Johnson City, Chattanooga, Nashville, Martin, and Jackson and work statewide.

Margaret Norris, who has been with MTAS for 20 years and has been executive director for three years, said the agency’s 2019-2024 strategic plan calls for MTAS to “work with Tennessee municipalities to improve the lives of those they serve” with a vision of helping Tennessee municipalities become “a national model of good governance.”

In 2020, MTAS had 58,791 contacts with customers, hosted 5,010 training participants, completed 11,362 projects for customers, and logged 246,247 website visitors.

Norris said the agency had an economic impact of nearly $6.8 million in 2020. In addition, its staff clocked 3,365 hours of professional development to ensure they were at the top of their fields.

All of this, she said, exemplifies the agency’s values, as outlined in its strategic plan:  adaptability, service-oriented, integrity and quality.

“I’m really proud that we did all of this during a global pandemic when we spent months working from home and serving municipalities as they struggled to learn how to work in a pandemic environment too,” she said.

Center for Industrial Services (CIS)

Created in 1963, CIS is the arm of IPS that works with manufacturers, small businesses, economic developers, and other organizations critical to community growth and success.

CIS provides training and consulting in manufacturing excellence; economic development; government contracting; energy efficiency and environmental management; and health, safety, and emergency preparedness.

“CIS has grown and evolved over the past 50 years,” said Paul Jennings, who has served as executive director for 11 years. “From a small, traditional industrial extension service, CIS has grown into a multi-program agency that serves a range of customers, including small manufacturers, economic developers, small businesses and government agencies.”

In six offices across the state, CIS has 40 full-time staff and additional part-time employees who work with the agency on a project-focused basis. Each year, CIS assists more than 800 companies, trains over 5,000 people, and facilitates $1.2 billion in customer-reported economic impact through cost savings, new and retained sales, and capital investments.

Over the years, CIS has grown its efforts to include nationally recognized programs, including the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Training Institute, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center. 

“We emphasize working with partners across Tennessee and the United States to address local and regional initiatives and apply CIS and university expertise to problems and opportunities,” Jennings said.

“The need for CIS expertise continues to grow as the economy evolves. The pandemic has only accelerated economic changes, and is impacting how we deliver services, ensure a safe workplace, and help customers navigate issues ranging from cybersecurity to supply chain disruptions.”

County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS)

From questions about budgets to advice to counties as they build new jails to technical queries about property purchases or granting marriage licenses, CTAS is a go-to source of information for county officials.

Created in 1973, CTAS – which divides the state into eight service regions — helps improve government by providing direct assistance to county administrators and their associations.

Its services run the gamut: financial, legal, information technology, highway, public safety, environmental services, training, and research and analysis. Along with its consultants, CTAS provides a host of online resources, including an electronic library of county publications, a compilation of private acts, salary schedules for county officials, sample documents, and a newsletter that covers a variety of current topics, from the 2020 Census to population projections to information about the state’s opioid crisis.

Headquartered in Nashville, CTAS has 34 staff members, including eight county government consultants, each of whom works with 10 to 14 counties.

When a county needs assistance, they reach out to their assigned consultant who serves as a liaison with CTAS’s network of experts.

In the past fiscal year, the agency conducted 26,650 activities, from face-to-face meetings to training events to correspondence over issues.

“CTAS evolved a great deal over the years,” said Jon Walden, interim executive director, who has been with CTAS for 28 years.

Much of the change has come through the agency’s use of technology. The agency has become even more nimble because of the pandemic.

When COVID-19 shut down face-to-face meetings, CTAS had to figure out how to provide the same caliber of training and assistance virtually. The lessons learned during the pandemic are totally revamping the way CTAS works.

Going forward, the agency will be able to offer in-person, virtual and hybrid training – reaching more people while making services more convenient and affordable.

“It’s helping us become more flexible in the way we provide assistance to our customers,” he said.

Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC)

Formed in 1997, the LEIC evolved from the Southeastern Community Oriented Policing Education Institute and provides state-of-the-art training for law enforcement professionals.

“No one else does what we do,” said Executive Director Rick Scarbrough, who has led the center since August 2018.

LEIC has 12 full-time staff members and 70 subject matter experts in law enforcement and public safety, executive leadership and management, community education, safe and secure schools, internet and information technology, seminar and conference development and curriculum development. 

Over the past 15 years, LEIC has trained more than 50,000 law enforcement officers representing more than 4,000 law enforcement agencies across the country and around the world. It has also trained participants from the U.S. Army and Air Force.

Launched in 2001, the LEIC’s flagship course is the National Forensic Academy. It is a 10-week program that provides specialized training for crime scene investigators. Participants practice shooting incident reconstruction, bloodstain pattern analysis, scene photography, and latent print processing. A three-week version of the program is offered for undergraduate and graduate students in criminal justice.

These programs continued during the pandemic with minor adjustments to ensure participants’ safety.

The can-do attitude is what’s made LEIC one of the nation’s elite training services.

“It was not if, but how we’d provide the training,” Scarbrough said.

LEIC also offers different levels of law enforcement leadership training and specialized workshops on active shooter training, curbing domestic violence, firearms simulator, and chemical weapons awareness. And, like other IPS agencies, LEIC is nimble enough to respond quickly to help law enforcement deal with emerging issues – from social justice and the need to eradicate biased-based policing to the growing threat of cybercrime.

The agency is now in the midst of a two-year $1.3 million Department of Justice-funded program to take its programming – leadership training, de-escalation techniques, and crime scene management — to 42 rural areas where law enforcement departments may not have the resources to send their staff members to the LEIC.

LEIC also worked with the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles to create a national certification program that will help minimize biased-based policing in the law enforcement community by increasing diversity in law enforcement ranks and examining perceptions, stereotypes and cultural assumptions. Roll out began with UT campus law enforcement agencies and will expand to local law enforcement agencies across Tennessee and the nation.

Tennessee Language Center (TLC)

During the pandemic, the Tennessee Language Center was called on to translate all sorts of important health information – public service announcements, guidance about isolating and quarantining, vaccination consent forms and cards, exposure letters, employer and employee notification letters, and vaccine phase information – into Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish, Somali and Chinese.

It’s just one of the ways TLC is working to level the playing field by eliminating language barriers in Tennessee.

The TLC was created in 1986 as the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute, and it was the first agency of its kind in state government nationwide. It became part of IPS in July 2018.

It was borne out of the state’s growing diversity: Tennessee is home to more than 830 foreign-owned businesses with more than $24 billion investment in the state. The state also welcomes about 1,600 refugees from around the world each year.

Executive Director Janice Rodriguez, who has been with the agency for 22 years, said lawmakers who crafted the legislation creating the agency were “visionaries” who understood that language services were key to Tennessee remaining competitive in education and economic development.

“They wanted to create a center of excellence to address the teaching of language and the interpretation and translation needs of government, tourism, public health and other entities so that language would not be a barrier to Tennessee’s success.”

The TLC provides group and custom language classes, translation and interpretation services, and professional development programs for interpreters, translators, and language instructors. It also provides diversity and cultural awareness programs for government and business officials, educators and the public.

TLC provides specific training for court or legal interpretation, as well as medical interpretation. The agency also works with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. and the city’s Transportation Licensing Commission to test taxi drivers’ English language skills and provide taxi drivers with training in hospitality skills and map reading.

Using a Ford F-650 truck fashioned into a fully functioning classroom, TLC’s ESL to Go program provides English as a Second Language instruction to more than 1,700 people in the Nashville area. The truck goes to areas of the community where large numbers of refugees reside.

TLC employs 20 full-time employees, dozens of adjunct or part-time instructors and hundreds of independent contractors.

In a typical year, the agency gets more than 10,000 requests for interpreter services and more than 1,200 requests for written translations. It services more than 36,000 people via telephonic interpretation. In the past year, the agency has worked in 95 different languages. It has served 1,157 people through language classes, interpreter training and cultural training.

While the agency charges a fee for many of its services, some – like instruction for refugees – are federally funded. While the agency works primarily with Tennessee entities, it has worked nationwide.

Looking to the future, Rodriguez said the agency is assessing needs county by county and constantly looking for ways to let people know that it exists to help with interpretation, translation, and language training, living its motto of “creating a dialogue with the world.”

Naifeh Center for Effective Leadership (NCEL)  

Established by the Tennessee Legislature in 2009, the NCEL is one of IPS’s newest agencies. Named for Jimmy Naifeh, longtime Tennessee Speaker of the House of Representatives, the center was created to help groom effective leaders in business and government.

NCEL absorbed the training components from the agency once known as the Center for Government Training (CGT); CGT’s consulting components were moved to MTAS and CTAS.

NCEL offers certificate programs, academies in management and supervision, mentoring, leadership development, human resources, and administrative support. It also helps organizations administer leadership and behavioral assessments and can facilitate team-building workshops.

The center’s eight staff members are based in Nashville and Knoxville but work statewide. In the past year, the center has trained more than 8,000 business and government leaders.

“We’re a small team, but we feel like we have a large impact across the state,” said Macel Ely, executive director of NCEL. He said the center is increasingly being called upon to provide customized training and programming.

This past year, in one of the center’s key programs, the Certified Public Manager Program, groups of middle- and upper-level managers from local, state, and federal agencies came together in Jackson, Nashville, and Knoxville. Each cohort spent 300 hours in training culminating with each participant doing a capstone project on a way their particular agency could become more efficient and effective. Those projects had a whopping $19.6 million economic impact in Tennessee.

“That’s a real wow moment,” Ely said.