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The Great Talent Search and Development Effort- Part II
By: Lillian Hartgrove | 04.01.15

I am not a gifted writer like George Halford so bear with me as I share this phase of the talent development story. Allow me to start out by saying; we have much to be proud of when we talk about the regional workforce. Now, that’s not to say that all is perfect in the world of talent development.  However, there are programs in place to address the opportunities in collaboration with K-12, post-secondary education, and business/ industry under the umbrella of the Highlands Economic Partnership’s Workforce Development and Education Program of Work.

The collaboration started in 2008 and has grown dramatically each year. Having a regional workforce development and education program requires the participation of highly committed, passionate individuals who care deeply about the future of our children and local economy. Educators work in this world every day facing constant challenges. Constant change seems to be the name of the game, but it doesn’t stop them from moving onward and upward, as George would say.  I admire them immensely.

The Highlands Workforce Development and Education Program of Work, with Dr. Bob Bell as Vice Chairman of the Board and Dr. Sally Pardue as Steering Committee Chair, has a clear set of goals and objectives to prepare students and citizens for 21st Century jobs that exist in the region thanks to existing business and industry and those yet to come.  Sub-committees tackle each goal and include stakeholders from K-12, higher education, business/industry with Highlands Economic Partnership staff tracking and monitoring achievement of goals.

The Program of Work offers career exposure opportunities to middle school students through an annual 8th grade career fair held in May at TTU, Speakers Program in the schools with area business/industry professionals participating, TN Scholars Program with emphasis on rigorous academics in high school, and Parental Engagement in the workplace/ organization to give information parents and guardians need to help their students with today’s complex social issues and pressures. These programs led to the Highlands Workforce Development and Education team joining the national Pathways to Prosperity Network by invitation from TN Department of Education.

Pathways to Prosperity began in 2012 after Harvard’s Graduate School of Education issued a report on the state of education in the U.S.  Calling for change, more than 10 states are now members of the Pathways to Prosperity network. Tennessee was one of the first states to join, and the Highlands was one of only two regions asked to participate in the beginning.

Pathways to Prosperity is well underway in the 4 school districts of Jackson, Overton, Putnam and White Counties and in Nashville State, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Tennessee Tech, and Vol State. Area employers are engaged with educators in the work of creating seamless pathways of learning beginning with middle grade students through post-secondary education.  Hearing the voices of business/industry and taking action on their recommendations has been vital to preparing students for real world jobs. Getting everyone outside of their silos, communicating, exchanging ideas, and thinking about what is best for students are all part of what is required to ensure we have a well-trained and highly skilled workforce. Are we there yet? No, but one thing we know for sure is we would never be near there if we did not have passionate, caring people coming together to make needed change to get us there.  Stay tuned to part 3 next month. There’s so much more to tell!

For more information about Highlands Workforce Development and Education initiatives, contact me at lhartgrove@highlandsoftn.com or by calling 931-526-2211.