Embracing a changing world.
In what is the first of its kind, the West Tennessee Workforce Collaborative has brought together leaders from municipal districts in Shelby County to address workforce development concerns in our communities. This initiative gives students a roadmap for life beyond the classroom – whether that means college or a career.
A main focus of our foundation has been our workforce development program. While college remains a worthy goal for many students, we believe public education must embrace the challenge of a rapidly evolving global marketplace. In fact, it’s reported that 60% of the 25 most in-demand jobs of tomorrow won’t require a bachelor’s degree. Instead, a growing number of jobs will require advanced certification, creating a demand for training for those types of jobs.
We viewed our relationship with the new Collierville High School as an opportunity to beta test this new approach, offering students technical, vocational or professional development skills they would need to compete in this quickly evolving marketplace.
We brought local business owners together with curriculum leaders and teachers to discuss workforce development needs. Students would learn emerging technology and vocational skills, schools would gain additional training and funding from the businesses, and the business owners would gain access to the next generation of workers, and play a role in preparing them for the workforce.
Soon, more than 250 area businesses pledged their support to the program which gives our students access to training for jobs as airplane mechanics, pilots, drone aviation specialists, welders, commercial kitchen builders, nurses and hospice care workers with clinical medical assisting (CMA) certification, and cosmetologists. Since the program started, hundreds of students at Collierville High School have participated in internships, externships and have been employed by partner firms.
One of the true success stories of the program is in the field of Agriculture Technology. In today’s world, agriculture goes well beyond tractors, planting and harvesting crops. It requires knowledge of science and technology to improve land productivity. “Smart” combines can detect differences in yield from one field to the next. Soil maps reveal soil structure and chemical properties. Today’s farmers also rely on high-tech to track weather patterns, soil erosion and biodiversity. Through our partnership with several agricultural companies, we built a teaching farm on campus so kids could learn firsthand about some of these new technologies. It has given them a different perspective on farming and an introduction to the skills needed for success in that field.
The workforce development program has proven so successful that schools throughout the state have begun replicating our efforts. It’s even been touted nationally and a number of states have adopted similar programs. Furthermore, the newly developed West Tennessee Workforce Collaborative has created a communication pipeline between businesses and education that will ensure schools in our state offer courses relevant to the ever-evolving marketplace.
With the collective efforts of local businesses, government and public education, we are trying to change the world.