MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - There’s a renewed focus from Tennessee’s new governor training Memphians in the career and technical field.
Governor-elect Bill Lee ran on a platform of expanding career and technical education in the state.
Lawmakers acknowledged that could be key to ending generational poverty in Memphis.
“We are a blue-collar state for the most part,” said Tennessee Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D}, who represents District 98.
Parkinson was one of a handful of lawmakers at Southwest Tennessee Community College’s legislative luncheon Monday.
The gathering had a renewed focus this year. :
“We anticipate even more of an emphasis on what we already do,” said Dr. Tracy Hall, president of Southwest Tennessee Community College.
Lee campaigned on increases in career and technical education, noting that in his company which hires tradesmen, staff had issues finding qualified workers because high schools aren’t training them.
Under Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, the state rolled out the Tennessee Promise program – which provides two years of tuition free attendance at a community or technical college.
They also rolled out the Tennessee Reconnect program, a similar program which gives grants to adults with no associate’s degree or technical certificate.
“We are in a place in Shelby County where you have a lot of temporary employment and so you have families that are trying to build a family and security around temporary jobs,” said Rep. Karen Camper (D), who represents District 87.
“You talk about erasing generational issues that have happened that have kept people in poverty,” Parkinson said. “Start the workforce development part in middle school so as they go on to high school they get the technical school part of it so they are truly employable or truly ready for the workforce or truly ready to go into business.”
While lawmakers acknowledge they don't know what Lee will propose, they say education and workforce training should be a bipartisan topic.
“I think workforce is something we can all agree on,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.
Lee has already begun to assemble a transition team.
He will be sworn in on January 19.