The Hunt Institute to Host State Leaders in Tennessee to Spotlight Higher Education Reform

November 15, 2019

Nashville, Tenn.–According to the U.S. Department of Labor, jobs in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – will continue to outpace growth in non-STEM jobs over the next 10 years. This news runs parallel with research that in 2018, 2.4 million STEM jobs went unfilled in the United States.

Tennesee, known across the country for the state’s comprehensive higher education policy structure, is working to fill this skills gap thanks to a partnership between the state and Nissan North America where students attending the Smyrna Campus of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT)-Murfreesboro are preparing for careers in advanced manufacturing and other fields.

On Nov. 17-18, The Hunt Institute will host a group of state legislators and Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows in a visit to the campus along with moderated discussions with Tennessee higher education leaders to better understand how other states can build systems that support students as they move through postsecondary opportunities, while building a competitive workforce.

“Now that nearly every state has set a postsecondary attainment goal, state leaders must put forward strategic policy that can help meet these goals, all while supporting their students, especially those who are underserved,” said President & CEO Dr. Javaid Siddiqi. “We’re pleased that The Hunt Institute can facilitate this visit so policymakers can gain knowledge on proven strategies in Tennessee that have helped increase access to postsecondary opportunities.”

First accepting students in January 2017, both public TCAT students and employees from the Nissan Smyrna plant are enrolled at the education and training facility. The state-of-the-art technical training center is jointly occupied by the college and Nissan, representing a public-private partnership between Nissan and the College System of Tennessee to create educational opportunities that are closely aligned to current workforce needs in the region.  

“I’m excited to have state leaders join us in Tennessee to get a firsthand look at how public and private partnerships can support alignment between postsecondary learning and workforce needs,” said Tennessee’s Sec. of State Tre Hargett, a HK Fellow (Cohort 3). “While there’s more work to be done, Tennessee has made important policy changes that have resulted in more individuals earning a postsecondary degree or certificate.”

In addition to visiting the Nissan campus, attendees will hear from Mike Krauseexecutive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, who will discuss the state’s Drive to 55 Initiative, whichseeks to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025.

The visit will end with a panel discussion moderated by MC Belk Pilon, chair of the John M. Belk Endowment, which has supported the efforts of myFutureNC in setting North Carolina’s postsecondary attainment goal. She will be joined by Dan Caldwell,senior manager for learning pathways of Nissan North America, Dr. Carol Puryear, president of Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Murfreesboro and Beth Duffield, senior vice president of education and workforce development of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.

“While North Carolina is home to unique postsecondary opportunities for students, I’m eager to learn from Tennessee’s state leaders who have crafted thoughtful higher education and workforce policies,” said North Carolina Rep. Ashton Clemmons. “With a newly established postsecondary attainment goal, it will be imperative for leaders from government, business, education, and nonprofit sectors to work collaboratively to achieve success for our students and state.”  

The Hunt Institute, a national nonpartisan education policy organization, provides ongoing learning experiences to legislators, including regional visits to innovative and impactful programs across the country that successfully connects bipartisan groups of policymakers with leading national experts in education policy.

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