Governor Lee initiative targets career training

Under his first legislative initiative, Gov. Bill Lee plans to create a statewide vocational and technical training program to increase opportunities for Tennessee students, his administration announced.

If approved by lawmakers, the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education initiative would fulfill one of Lee’s top education platforms during his gubernatorial run. His office declined to say how much money the state would invest in the program, but expects it to serve about 11,000 students and 25 communities.

“I believe that expanding our vocational and technical offerings will be transformational for Tennesseans and the future of our state,” Lee said. “We have the opportunity to help students discover quality career paths and gain skills that are needed right now in the workforce by emphasizing career and technical education.”

The GIVE initiative would use lottery funds to create regional partnerships to develop on-the-job learning and apprenticeship opportunities. House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, will sponsor the bill, Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold said.

Lee declined to detail how much the program would cost the state.

“We know the numbers. But the process is that we have to present that budget to the legislature, so that will come out soon,” Lee said.

 When pressed further, Lee declined to give an estimate on the amount.

“We’ll announce that after we present it,” Lee said. “That’s the real process. We need to let the legislature see it.”

Under the education proposal, communities would be given the funding and flexibility to build programs that best reflect their local needs, according to the announcement, and would be able to work directly with private industry to structure the programs.

The GIVE initiative would also provide money so high school juniors and seniors can use four, fully funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs, which is expected to better prepare students for entry into the workforce.

High school students have only access to two fully funded dual enrollment credits, according to the governor’s office.

“With GIVE, there is now a framework in place to partner with the private sector in addressing gaps in our workforce,” Lee said. “This initiative also puts students in charge of their future by preparing them for a good job right out of high school.”

The program would create two grant programs.

The governor is recommending a new stream of money for GIVE Community Grants, which would support regional partnerships to build new programs and expand work-based training for students. The grants would build off of the state’s Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP), which facilitates collaboration between employers, colleges and K-12 schools.

And GIVE Student Grants would be funded through the Tennessee Lottery and promote increased access to dual enrollment.

The grants would use excess lottery money after the HOPE Scholarship and the Tennessee Promise and Reconnect programs are funded, Arnold said.

“It is time to make sure education in Tennessee embraces multiple pathways to success,” Lee said. “We believe GIVE is a key step for the future of our kids and ensuring we can fill the jobs of tomorrow.”

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jason Gonzales

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Published February 8, 2019