First Tennessee Development District receives nearly $1.3 million U.S. Department of Labor WORC Grant to develop “Recovery to Workplace Pipeline”


The First Tennessee Development District (FTDD) has been awarded nearly $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Labor through its Workforce Opportunities in Rural Communities (WORC) grant to fund the Caring Workplace Initiative.

Lottie Ryans

According to Lottie Ryans, Director of Workforce & Literacy Initiatives for the FTDD, “Our region has had various programs working to assist people in recovery and those justice-involved reentering the workforce. What we are lacking is a systematic, repeatable, collaborative way to bring partners together to work with individuals and employers. The Caring Workplace Initiative provides us resources to make this happen and to identify and fill gaps in order to make this a truly supportive ecosystem with measurable outcomes.”

The initiative will include staffing dedicated to working with employers to address their existing workforce needs and build capacity with partnering employers who hire candidates from the identified populations. One aspect of this work will be the development and implementation of a Caring Workplace website for employers to have access to valuable resources and to earn the distinction and recognition as a certified Caring Workplace.

Additionally, Ballad Health will expand the PEERhelp navigator program to hire two additional Certified Peer Recovery Specialists to work with partners such as NETN Local Workforce Development Board, Frontier Health and others to ensure a successful transition to work including support and check-ins at identified intervals.

ETSU’s Addiction Science Center will serve as a training and data analysis partner. Regional employers have indicated a willingness to be pioneers in this effort. Rite Screen, a manufacturer in Carter County signed on as a supporter for this work. BJ Gott, plant manager states “Rite Screen is committed to our local community and to the region. We believe in giving people a chance to improve and stabilize their lives and we believe working as a team member at Rite Screen is one way this can be a reality for our neighbors.” Pat Breeding, the president of Kingsport based GRC Construction shares “At GRC. Construction we not only help build our community through our day to day work in the construction industry, but we build our community by serving and investing in others. With the Caring Workplace initiative we will be able to help individuals build their construction trades skills, and rebuild their life. We are proud to partner in this work.”

The WORC Initiative is designed to facilitate the alignment of workforce development efforts with existing economic development strategies in rural communities hard hit by economic transition and recovering slowly. The WORC Initiative provides grant funds to enable impacted communities to develop local and regional workforce development solutions aligned with existing economic development strategies and community partnerships to promote new, sustainable job opportunities and long-term economic vitality. These grants support workforce development activities that prepare dislocated workers, new entrants to the workforce, and incumbent workers for good jobs in high-demand occupations aligned with a regional or community economic development strategy.

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