TBR’s Cassie Lynn Foote delivered the Roundtable’s insights on a critical workforce development strategy to key staff of the Tennessee General Assembly during a July panel discussion organized by a TBR policy ally. Continue reading
Longtime TBR Board member Charles B. “Chuck” Welch, Jr., of member Farris Bobango PLC, has been appointed to TBR’s Executive Committee by 2017 Chair Margaret O. Dolan.
“Chuck has consistently expressed a high level of interest in the work and direction of the Roundtable,” says Dolan. “In addition, he has provided rich and long-time service to our organization, and those qualities make Chuck a great addition to our Executive Committee, which will begin to take on an enhanced leadership role for the Roundtable.”
A Partner at Farris Bobango, Welch’s practice concentrates in the areas of administrative law, governmental relations, commercial transactions, civil litigation, and telecommunications law. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee and a Juris Doctor degree from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. A member of the Memphis, Nashville, Tennessee and American Bar Associations, Welch is a former Assistant Shelby County Attorney and the former Assistant City Attorney for the City of Collierville.
“Having been involved with the TBR for nearly a decade, I am very interested in its growth and continued success,” said Chuck. “I very much welcome the opportunity to take a more significant role in the organization’s future, and look forward to working with Margaret, Pat and the Executive Committee.”
With Welch’s appointment, TBR’s Executive Committee now stands at eleven members, including the nine 2017 Officers elected by our Board plus Welch and longtime TBR board member Gordon Fee. The Executive Committee meets monthly via teleconference and serves as the core of our Roundtable’s member leadership team. Please join us in congratulating Chuck on his appointment.
A New Paradigm for our Business Community and Nine Keys to Success
This piece was originally published in the TBR Member Update on June 23, 2017
How do we get more Tennesseans job- ready in the skill areas of greatest need to our state’s economy? In talking with our state’s business leaders and allied organizations, I’ve learned this is the question that keeps many of them up at night.
I’ve heard great examples of employers investing in their businesses through opportunities for young Tennesseans, and about great efforts by local business nonprofits to inform, encourage and facilitate workforce development.
Yet those joyful noises are still being drowned out by a growing din of alarm and doubt among employers, economists and workforce experts: “It’s still not enough.” “We can’t find qualified workers.” “Who’s really doing something about this?”
It’s time for employers and our organizations to put it all together for Tennessee. In partnership with educators, governments, and each other, Tennessee businesses and our nonprofits should embrace a new paradigm:
The future of Tennessee’s workforce begins now. For our businesses, our state, and our people, we must take action individually and collectively, and with others,to produce more workers, with better skills, matching our most-needed jobs,now and for the future of Tennessee’s economy.
How do we achieve this vision? Here are nine key ideas that should inform action by Tennessee’s business community:
- Tomorrow’s employees need active employer support all the way from K to J. As tomorrow’s employees begin journeying from kindergarten to job (“K to J”), companies cannot simply wait at the end of the road for them to arrive—we have to actively help them get there. Our education system provides the “roads” for these “occupational motorists” to travel, but if we want more of them to arrive at our doors sooner and job-ready with the skills we need, business must take an active role in providing guard rails, signage, lighting, maps, and even billboards all along their way. If we don’t, too many of them will continue wandering on unproductive, lifelong “road trips”.
- Career awareness is critical—early, often, and in every way possible. “When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut, ballerina, You-Tuber…” Kids begin forming career impressions at shockingly early ages. Too often, they don’t connect to actual job opportunities. If we want more workers at our doors sooner, job-ready with the skills we need, we must “market” our jobs to them—early, aggressively and often. How? Show and tell—in person or on-screen—in front of classes, student groups, parents, and individual students, as early and often as possible. Show them how our skilled positions will deliver the cash for phones, clothes, and cars. Let them see and feel the satisfaction and confidence that “winning” at work delivers.
- K-12 advisors need business expertise, resources and support. Another emerging reality: The adults in the most critical positions from which to influence K-12 students’ career formation are under incredible strain. Too many of them have too many students to serve, not enough professional development opportunities, and are the “staffer of first resort” when a school needs an adult to stop what they’re doing to fill a need or solve a problem. Businesses can step up and step in to help. How many of your staff can contribute mentorship, talent-management acumen, work-world hacks, or professional development support to lift up advisors in your K-12 communities?
- More future workers are learning by doing. With eyes and minds re-wired by electronic screentime, people now learn more by doing than from listening and reading. When K-12 and college students engage in work-based learning (WBL), they grasp theory through practical execution—to real-world standards. They gain soft skills they can’t get in classrooms, and discover the power of paychecks. When they exit the educational system, the employers from whom they’ve learned are tops on their career agenda—and they contribute more and sooner as permanent hires. The WBL approach delivers better results than “give me somebody who can show up on time and pass a drug test, and we’ll train them”—over and over again.
- Post-secondary instruction needs more direct business support. Accomplished businesspeople have long shared their knowledge as adjunct university professors. But Tennessee’s higher ed students and institutions need much more business acumen to inform and support post-secondary study—especially in disciplines matching the skill areas of greatest workforce need. And it’s needed throughout the higher ed system, especially in the TCAT and community college programs into which TN Promise students have begun to flow in greater numbers–and which are struggling to find enough instructors to teach them.
- When the pie grows bigger, everybody gets more. It’s clear that solving Tennessee’s workforce riddle is going to require mobilizing all of the available talent sources in our state. We need numbers, and can’t afford to overlook the talent in people with barriers to employment. There’s so much we can do to grow Tennessee’s talent pie. We can unlock doors for ex-offenders and help veterans “translate” their MOS’s to the skills required for the jobs we need most. We can support employees who want to “re-Connect” and enable those with physical or mental challenges to participate fully in our workforce.
- Employers must take primary responsibility for making it happen. For too long, business owners have focused comfortably on our operations and customers, expecting our workforce to simply appear when needed—and leaving the heavy lifting to our school districts, governments and charitable nonprofits. How’s that working out for us? Not well enough. Business needs to apply the power of free enterprise in taking charge of our workforce destiny, and accept a primary role in overcoming the inefficiency and lack of resources and coordination which constrain public-sector efforts. If we don’t, our businesses and state economy face growing risks.
- How do we eat an employment “elephant”? One bite at a time. “We can’t possibly turn this around—it’s too big a problem.” Not one of us has enough time, people, or resources to solve our own employment riddle. Larger companies invest in last-mile pipelines for enterprise-critical talent, at great expense. But sustaining Tennessee’s economic success requires each and every cog in our state’s economic engine to include workforce outreach in its business plan—and take meaningful action. Nobody needs to do everything, but each company must do something for Tennessee’s K to J talent pipeline.
- Sustained progress requires the three C’s. Many businesses and organizations are already developing programs that respond to their populations and industry cluster needs. They’ve gotten companies to actively contribute time, treasure and know-how to develop their communities’ workforces. These investments are producing results, and they prove that business recognizes it must invest in workforce. Tennessee will win the talent competition when we coordinate such efforts, collaborate to fill in the gaps, and execute our commitments.
Let’s move from talking and commiserating about our workforce challenges into action on them—so Tennessee’s economy and communities can continue to grow and to provide critical private and public benefits to the Tennesseans who bring it all to life.
In conjunction with the Roundtable’s Fall 2017 Board Meeting in Nashville, TBR members and invitees will have an opportunity to hear directly from the men and women who want to serve as Tennessee’s next Governor.
TBR is inviting the 2018 gubernatorial candidates to share their respective policy visions for our state at its 2018 Gubernatorial Round-Robin on Tuesday, Sept. 12, time and location TBD.
“This forum provides a unique opportunity to have candid conversations with gubernatorial candidates about issues important to not only Farm Bureau but also the business community at large,” stated Anthony Kimbrough, CEO of Farm Bureau Health Plans. “I look forward to learning more about the candidates and their positions.”
TBR has invited the following declared candidates to provide remarks and take Q&A, in a serial non-debate format, with Roundtable members and invited guests:
- Mae Beavers (R), Middle TN, State Senator (District 17)
- Randy Boyd (R), East TN, business owner (Radio Systems Corp.) and former Commissioner of Economic and Community Development
- Karl Dean (D),Middle TN, former mayor of Nashville
- Beth Harwell (R), Middle TN, TN House Speaker
- Bill Lee (R), Middle TN, business owner (Lee Company)
Others considering bids for governor include U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R) and TN House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D). The gubernatorial primary election will be held Aug. 2, 2018, with the general election on Nov. 6.
Registration for the Round-Robin is available to all TBR members, and to their invited guests via invitation only. Click here to request event sponsorship information.
In April the TN Dept. of Education submitted to the U.S. Department of Education its final plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enacted in December of 2015 as the successor to the No Child Left Behind federal education law. The product of a yearlong process of listening tours, town hall meetings, and stakeholder feedback, Tennessee’s ESSA plan—which is slated to take effect on July 1 following review and approval by the federal government—includes a new focus on career readiness which is expected to help more students to graduate from the K-12 system better-prepared for employment and higher education.
ESSA builds on the recent progress being made in educational systems in Tennessee and across the country, which is leading to rising high school graduation rates and declining dropout rates. The new law now requires that all students be held to high academic standards which prepare them for college or careers after high school. Tennessee’s strategic education plan, put in place prior to the enactment of ESSA, closely tracks the new law’s major priorities and requirements and provided a strong foundation on which to build the state’s ESSA plan.
In January, the Roundtable submitted its feedback to the draft ESSA plan developed by the Tennessee Department of Education. After reviewing comments from over 1,000 groups and individuals throughout the state, the Dept. of Education made edits and adjustments to the draft plan which addressed areas of concern held by many stakeholders.
“The Roundtable’s primary concerns during the ESSA plan development process, which we voiced loudly and clearly to the Department [of Education] throughout, were to protect Tennessee’s commitments to high K-12 academic standards and to assessments which align with those high standards, and to put workforce readiness on par with college readiness in measuring K-12 school performance,” points out TBR Vice Chair Tinker Kelly (VEBA, Nashville, TN). “TBR fought successfully for decades to raise our state’s academic standards and to hold our schools accountable by measuring student performance against those standards, and we’re very pleased that Tennessee has ‘doubled down’ on those commitments by submitting an ESSA plan which protects those rigorous standards and assessments—and which affirms more clearly than ever before that career-readiness is just as important as being ready for college.”
Two new key indicators in Tennessee’s ESSA compliance plan will break new ground for the state in its measurement of opportunity and readiness. Tennessee’s new “Chronically Absent” indicator focuses on students who miss 10 percent or more of the days they are enrolled in school, and aims to decrease absenteeism by addressing the underlying causes of their truancy. To address readiness, Tennessee’s new Ready Graduate indicator will identify the percentage of high school graduates who achieve specified post-secondary readiness benchmarks, including scoring 21 or better on the ACT exam or attaining certain industry-recognized technical credentials, that increase their likelihood of succeeding in college and careers.
In response to feedback from TBR and other business interests on its draft plan, Tennessee’s final ESSA plan includes an additional “readiness check” within its Ready Graduate indicator. Students who complete two Early Postsecondary Opportunities and receive a sufficient score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery will now be included within that accountability measure as “ready graduates.” Additionally, the accountability weighting of the Ready Graduate indicator has been increased from 20% to 25%, while the weighting of the Chronically Absent indicator has decreased. Changes like these will encourage schools to prioritize career readiness offerings, leading to more students graduating prepared for college or the job market.
Increased Gas, Registration Levies Offset by Cuts in Non-Gas Taxes; Local TN Govts Gain Surcharge Referendum Option to Fund Transit
Following weeks of negotiations, political posturing and legislative maneuvering, Governor Bill Haslam on April 26 signed into law the first major update to Tennessee’s road-funding program in over 25 years.
Coupling modest increases in the state’s fuel taxes and annual registration fees with four significant tax cuts, the enacted version of the IMPROVE Act paves the way for accelerated work on a backlog of over $10 billion in much-needed improvements to state highway routes and bridges—and provides new transportation revenue and options to Tennessee’s local governments. Continue reading
Representing the Roundtable and Tennessee’s employers, TBR Director of Policy & Research Cassie Foote and other members of Tennessee’s New Skills for Youth (NSFY) grant team huddled last month with counterparts from nine other states to help make the most of each state’s new $2 million career readiness grant. Continue reading
Less than two months after top U.S. CEOs said that improving early
reading is the key to closing the “skills gap,” Tennessee’s state K- 12
education leaders have launched the second phase of an initiative
which aims at the “sweet spot” for literacy and future attainment:
third grade reading.
On February 23, Commissioner Candice McQueen and other leaders
from the TN Department of Education reported on progress made in
the first year of the Ready to be Ready initiative, which focuses on
improving elementary reading skills. McQueen and the Department
said that Tennessee’s approach to addressing its 3rd- grade- reading
gap should focus on these steps: Continue reading