Meets With Leaders of Harvard Award-Winning Workforce Development Initiative
Republican gubernatorial nominee and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam returned today to the Kingsport Academic Village and held a roundtable meeting with leaders of the Educate and Grow scholarship program.
Mayor Haslam highlighted the success of the Educate and Grow program -- a key component of the region's innovative approach to economic and workforce development -- as a model for locally-grown efforts to enhance a region's workforce and attract high quality jobs. Educate and Grow includes several initiatives designed to increase educational attainment rates, including a last-dollar scholarship program that allows every high school graduate who meets entrance requirements and minimum academic standards to attend four semesters at Northeast State Community College.
"Educate and Grow should be lifted up as a best practice for other regions to consider as they create strategies for developing a 21st century workforce," Haslam said.
"This is a great example of what can be accomplished when communities and regions work together to address workforce and economic development needs," added Haslam.
Faced with low educational attainment rates, a reliance on manufacturing, and massive job losses, the city of Kingsport launched a higher education initiative in 2001 designed to produce a better educated and trained workforce, diversify its economy by attracting and retaining high quality jobs, and keep talented students in the area.
In 2009, Kingsport's efforts were recognized by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University through an "Innovations in American Government" award that included a $100,000 prize. The Educate and Grow program now includes several surrounding counties and represents a truly regional approach to workforce development.
This spring Mayor Haslam highlighted the work of knoxAchieves, a privately funded, volunteer-driven mentoring and last-dollar scholarship program for Knox County students that he co-founded.
"All across the state -- from Shelby County's STEP program, to Madison CAN and the regional effort of the REDI College Access Program in Southwest Tennessee, to the Ayers Foundation Scholars in Decatur County, to knoxAchieves and Educate and Grow -- communities and regions across Tennessee are finding innovative ways to improve college access and enhance their local workforce," Haslam said.
"As a part of my plan to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs, I will look for creative ways to promote similar locally-grown efforts across the state and help each region develop a strategy for workforce development and job creation," said Haslam.