Bill Lee calls for more vo­ca­tional train­ing in schools

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - De­siree Sten­nett Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

The key to eco­nomic growth across Mem­phis is in train­ing a work­force that can do the jobs needed by com­pa­nies al­ready here and oth­ers con­sid­er­ing mov­ing to the area, Gov.-elect Bill Lee said.

One way to do that, Lee said, is to be­gin in­tro­duc­ing job skills train­ing to stu­dents aged as young as mid­dle school.

“I do think that there is a short­age of con­nec­tion be­tween (work­force de­vel­op­ment) pro­grams and K-12,” Lee said Thurs­day af­ter the Greater Mem­phis Cham­ber’s an­nual meet­ing at The Pe­abody. “I want to en­gage the pri­vate sec­tor, for ex­am­ple, in part­ner­ships with pub­lic schools so that we have op­por­tu­ni­ties for work-based learn­ing and ap­pren­tice­ships and for the chil­dren in the sev­enth and eighth grade to be­gin to have con­ver­sa­tions around the path­ways for their suc­cess that in­clude a par­tic­u­lar skill.”

Lee said this kind of ap­proach can help build bet­ter fu­tures for Ten­nessee stu­dents who don’t have plans to at­tend col­lege. He also cited a lack of skilled trade work­ers across the state and said he sup­ports cre­at­ing vo­ca­tional pro­grams in high schools.

“When we do that, we par­tic­u­larly give path­ways of suc­cess for those four out of 10 kids in our pub­lic school sys­tem who aren’t go­ing to col­lege cur­rently to­day,” Lee said. “We do very lit­tle to pre­pare them for suc­cess, and they need a path­way to suc­cess. Vo­ca­tional, tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion helps pro­vide that.”

Pre­par­ing stu­dents for the work­force af­ter grad­u­a­tion

Ernest Strick­land, se­nior vice pres­i­dent for the Greater Mem­phis Cham­ber, said the cham­ber has al­ready be­gun to work with com­pa­nies to cre­ate pro­grams for high school stu­dents.

In Oc­to­ber, a group of 500 Shelby County 11th and 12th graders toured Mem­phis-area man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies dur­ing the cham­ber’s an­nual man­u­fac­tur­ing day. One stu­dent who toured At­lantic Track was later hired for a po­si­tion at the com­pany, Strick­land said.

Then in Novem­ber, representatives from 17 com­pa­nies in a range of in­dus­tries in­clud­ing lo­gis­tics, med­i­cal de­vice man­u­fac­tur­ing and health sci­ences vis­ited seven school to speak with 1,500 stu­dents about ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams.

“When you have low un­em­ploy­ment, com­pa­nies be­come very pro­gres­sive when look­ing to at­tract tal­ent to their front doors,” Strick­land said, adding that these kinds of ini­tia­tives help keep stu­dents in­formed about what op­por­tu­ni­ties are avail­able and keep tal­ented work­ers and the com­pa­nies who need to hire them in Mem­phis.

The cham­ber thinks the gover­nor’s of­fice can play a role in cre­at­ing and ex­pand­ing pro­grams like the one Lee wants.

“What we want to see is dol­lars that flow from the state into our lo­cal work­force in­vest­ment net­work,” Strick­land said.

That money would help dif­fer­ent agen­cies train­ing work­ers col­lab­o­rate and be more ef­fi­cient trans­lat­ing into more peo­ple in well-pay­ing jobs.

De­siree Sten­nett can be reached at de­siree.sten­[email protected]­mer­cialap­peal. com, 901-529-2738 or on Twit­ter: @de­si_sten­nett.


Gover­nor-elect Bill Lee wants to see more vo­ca­tional train­ing pro­grams of­fered to mid­dle and high school stu­dents. JOE RONDONE/THE COM­MER­CIAL

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