By Bill Haslam, Governor
Tennessee has a lot to offer new employers and can compete with anyone when it comes to attracting jobs. The work environment, quality of life, low tax burden and committed workers make this a great place to do business.
But, if we are going to be a state that attracts companies to high-quality jobs for them here, there is nothing more important we can do than focus on education.
Tennessee is leading the way in K-12 education reform on a national level. We intend to continue that momentum, and I believe the time is right to expand our focus to include post-secondary education.
I recently held a series of seven candid conversations across the state with employers and educators to discuss ways that we can better link post-secondary education to high-quality jobs.
In Blountville, Jackson, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, Cookeville and Chattanooga, I heard about programs and partnerships among employers and educators that are showing results. I also heard concerns from business leaders about the lack of skills they’re seeing in job candidates, ranging from the basics of reading, writing and communicating to critical thinking and problem solving, to expertise on science, technology, engineering and math. Many advocated for more co-ops, internships, mentors and guidance counselors. Others expressed that state and post-secondary education institutions and business leaders must communicate on a regular and intentional basis to anticipate years in advance what skills and competencies will be needed for future jobs as innovation continues.
I also heard ideas ranging from better tracking of available jobs and skills required in specific industry sectors to increased investments in technology and capacity to address waiting lists in certain job areas.
In taking everything learned from those meetings, I’m evaluating what the state’s most effective role is in bridging gaps between available jobs of Tennessee employers and putting Tennesseans to work in those jobs. We have to do a better job of defining reality for our students so they are aware of possible job opportunities as well as the skills and knowledge those jobs require. We must also be intentional about allocating funding and resources to effectively address these issues.
The status quo is not good enough for our students. We need to examine the financial structure, the quality of the programs at our state institutions, and whether we are keeping up with the dynamic training needs of employers who want to put Tennesseans to work. It is going to take all of us working together to tackle these issues, and with the good work already happening in post-secondary education, we have a solid foundation to build on.
If you have any thoughts on this topic, or if there is anything else on your mind, please let me know. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.