Public Records Search

Tennessee aims for education wins through Pathways to Prosperity

On June 26, 2014 leaders from education and industry gathered in Nashville to continue a dynamic ongoing conversation between the public and private sectors. The goal is to create students that graduate from colleges in Tennessee who will compete, and win, in the high tech economy of the future.

The Growing Need for College Education

In 2012 Tennessee joined the Pathways to Prosperity Network, an educational consortium of nine separate states devoted to the common goal of making public schools focus on actual career development. Tennessee has used its membership to create stronger ties between education and industry leaders who can provide real information about what skills workers will need to compete in the coming economy.

Governor Bill Haslam estimates that 55 percent of Tennesseans will need post-secondary education certification by 2025 if they want to contribute to the state economy. At the moment, only 32 percent of Tennessee workers match that description. Therefore, the state of Tennessee has prioritized creating secondary schools that set students up to excel at the university level.

A Roadmap to Success

The core priority for Pathways Tennessee is developing an education system that braids together academic performance with career-oriented skill sets for students from middle school through college. This involves repurposing public education away from pure academic experiences towards developing competencies that enable students to pursue higher education with a better command of fundamentals within various industries.

The career development portion of this braided pathway requires engagement with industry. Whether it involves classes or youth internships, industry partners are tasked with giving public school students access to meaningful work-related learning experiences. Additionally, they will have a role in developing competency review processes to ensure that public school students are getting the most from these private sector opportunities.

Developing the College-Public School Interface

The key to providing students with this training is a statewide stakeholder system comprising industry leaders and higher education professionals. The industry stakeholders describe workforce demands to educators, and the higher education representatives develop options for connecting high school curricula with college offerings.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but Pathways Tennessee recognizes that developing this type of university/public school interface involves numerous paths into and out of the university system once students graduate high school. This routing system reflects the fact that most students will need career training through higher education, but not everyone will need the same amount of training. After all, in the coming economy, electricians with two-year certifications will be just as necessary as PhDs in engineering.

Taking it Step by Step

When Tennessee adopted Pathways to Progress in 2012, it set an aggressive timetable for implementation. Last week’s successful summit between state and industry leaders in Nashville won’t be the last word in implementing the program, but even detractors will admit that it is exactly where the state wants to be at this point. The end of 2014 will mark the program’s rollout in key school districts, and its proponents hope that from there, the sky is the limit.