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Comptroller Report Highlights State Workforce Alignment Accomplishments, Goals

Updated: Nov 15

This information comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles and five other counties.

The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has released a comprehensive report on recent and potential efforts to align the workforce in Tennessee.

In this column I will discuss several highlights of the report.

Workforce alignment occurs when the supply of qualified workers matches employers’ demands.

In other words, it ensures workers throughout the state possess the skills and qualifications employers are looking for so they can pursue meaningful careers.

Workforce alignment has long been a state priority, and there have been numerous impactful efforts over the last decade.

Workforce alignment was a key priority of the Gov. Bill Haslam administration, which launched the Drive to 55 initiative that seeks to raise the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55% by 2025. The goal is to tie education directly to workforce needs.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) and the Future Workforce Initiative.

The former sought to increase the number of young adults in Tennessee earning an industry certification and entering a career within one year of high school graduation, and the latter aimed to promote job creation in the technology sector.

The initiatives provide K-12 students with early postsecondary opportunities, such as new programs allowing students to explore science, technology, engineering, and math fields; increase access to Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment, and provide more training to increase the number of teachers qualified to teach work-based learning courses.

GIVE also provides opportunities for institutions to offer work-based learning experiences, purchase industry-caliber equipment, and award industry-recognized certifications.

In 2020, Gov. Lee announced the launch of 28 new work-based learning programs, an apprenticeship program called ApprenticeshipTN, and enhanced incentive packages for companies planning to locate in Tennessee’s distressed and at-risk counties.

All these efforts are having a positive impact. According to the comptroller’s report, the percentage of credentials earned that were linked to high-demand jobs has increased since 2016.

The report also found TCAT diplomas were most closely linked to high-demand occupations. Of all public institutions in the state, 49% of graduates earned credentials linked to a high-demand occupation while at TCATs, 85% of diplomas were linked to a high-demand occupation.

The report also notes five program fields with relatively high shares of graduates earning credentials linked to high-demand occupations.

Those include transportation and materials moving, public administration and social service professionals, precision production, construction trades as well as business, management and marketing.

The General Assembly this year also passed legislation that will continue to align the workforce.

That includes legislation expanding computer science training in middle and high schools, a $200 million investment for various improvements including expanded programming at TCATs throughout the state, $500 million to career and technical education (CTE) grants for middle and high school students, plus $88 million for GIVE and HOPE scholarship expansions. In an effort to address the nursing shortage in the state, the General Assembly this year also created the Center for Nursing Advancement at East Tennessee State University, which will collect and analyze data on nursing turnover and recruitment practices.

Finally, the comptroller’s report notes several policy options to further improve workforce alignment in Tennessee. That includes refining workforce alignment efforts, expanding data collection and establishing partnerships with other states to allow for interstate data collaboration, among others.

Workforce alignment has and will remain a top priority in the General Assembly. Education and career preparedness must always mirror the ever-evolving labor market and needs of employers.

I’m proud of the many successful initiatives implemented in Tennessee and look forward to further building on those successes in future legislative sessions.

Sen. Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN., 37243 or by calling 615-741-3100, calling toll free 1-800-449-8366, ext. 13100 or faxing 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald ,TN 38462, his phone number is 931-796-2018, his cell phone is 931-212-8823 or E-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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