By Joellen Kralik
State legislative staff saw a public-private partnership in action during a site visit offered as part of the Legislative Education Staff Network Fall Seminar Oct. 2-4 in Nashville.
Convened in partnership between NCSL and the Strada Education Network, the site visit provided an opportunity for 35 legislative staff to tour the Tennessee College of Applied Technology—Murfreesboro Smyrna Campus and Nissan Training Center (TCAT Smyrna).
During the tour, legislative staff toured the brand-new facility—the site of a $45.75 million partnership between Nissan and the Tennessee Board of Regents.
TCAT Smyrna opened in January 2017 and offers students fields of technical study including, including: automotive technology, industrial electrical maintenance, machine tool technology and welding technology. TCAT Smyrna is a public technical college—one of 27 such TCAT campuses across the state. The site also serves as Nissan’s employee training facility.
Nissan’s Kevin Smith and Dr. Carol Puryear of the Tennessee Board of Regents emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships like this one in developing and maintaining a highly skilled workforce at the state and local levels.
In addition to seeing the partnership between Nissan and TCAT in action, legislative staff learned about the wider policy context in Tennessee, including: Drive to 55, LEAP, Reconnect and Tennessee Promise.
Drive to 55: Initiated by Governor Bill Haslam in 2013, Tennessee’s Drive to 55 is a state-wide goal of having 55 percent of Tennesseans with a degree or credential by 2025. This educational attainment goal is meant to meet current and future state workforce needs. Some strategies Tennessee is using to meet this goal are:
- Tennessee’s Labor and Education Alignment Program (LEAP), aims to better coordinate key stakeholders at state and local levels to address workforce readiness. LEAP enables Tennessee students enrolled in TCATs and community colleges to participate in technical training developed with input from area employers. LEAP started in 2013 with the passage of HB 1276.
- Tennessee Promise is a scholarship and mentoring program for students graduating high school starting in 2015. It provides a last-dollar scholarship, meaning that it covers tuition not covered by the Pell grant or other Tennessee scholarship funds. Students can use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges or 27 TCATs. The Tennessee General Assembly approved Tennessee Promise in 2014 with the passage of HB 2491.
- Tennessee Reconnect is similar to Tennessee Promise, but for students who are 25 and older. Students could use Tennessee Reconnect at TCATs starting in 2015 as part of the Tennessee Promise legislation. With the passage of HB 531 in 2017, students can now use Tennessee Reconnect at community colleges, too.
Joellen Kralik is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Education Program.