Photo Above: Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey, surrounded by his fellow county mayors speaks about the region’s Work Ready Community progress. Photo courtesy First Tennessee Development District
By Scott Roberston
Within a 30-day span in June, regional business, government and education leaders heard about and/or took part in the development of three different workforce-development related initiatives affecting Northeast Tennessee.
SCORE, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (not to be confused with the Service Corps of Retired Executives, which uses the same acronym) is an organization created by former Tennessee United States Senator Bill Frist. In advance of next year’s gubernatorial election, SCORE is working to create a document similar to the one it put together in 2009. That document, entitled “A Roadmap to Success” was created after the organization crisscrossed the state, holding meetings with business and community leaders regarding ways to improve the effectiveness of public schools.
On June 21, SCORE held a similar meeting with Tri-Cities leaders in the offices of the Kingsport City Schools. “We have a full research and policy team. The research team looks at best practices across the country and the advocacy team seeks to implement those policies at both the local and state levels,” said Taylor Hall, director of outreach. “We measure our success as an organization based on student achievement in Tennessee.
“We create a report every year about what K-12 education in Tennessee should look like. This year is a little bit different, though, because we have the 2018 gubenatorial race coming up, where we know we will have a new governor for the first time in eight years. So we’re going to put out our next report in November, hoping to cast a vision on what Tennesseans say the next governor should be doing in education.”
After around two hours of discussion, Northeast Tennessee’s input was summed up by Richard Kitzmiller, vice president of the Niswonger Foundation, who said the next governor should endeavor to put a similar effort to Governor Haslam’s “Drive to 55” higher education initiative in place for K-12. Lottie Ryans, director of workforce and literacy initiatives for the First Tennessee Development District, added, “I would make that pre-K-12.”
Just days before, Ryans had stood with mayors from across Northeast Tennessee at the Tennessee College for Applied Technology in Elizabethton to celebrate the fact that the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee are now all actively engaged in earning ACT Work Ready Communities status.
Then, on June 27 at the new Blue Cross/Blue Shield building in Johnson City, representatives from Pathways Tennessee, an organization dedicated to providing a framework to get students from middle school seamlessly into the workforce held a Northeast Tennessee organizational meeting.
With opportunities in advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology already in place for qualified candidates in Northeast Tennessee, the Pathways initiative seeks to get industry leaders involved in student learning as early as middle school, to help secondary and post-secondary education institutions work together to allow students to bank post-secondary credits and/or industry certifications, and to create multiple entry points into the workforce from there.