Educators, economic development professionals convene first TNTrained class

TNTrained kicks off its first class

About 80 educators and economic and workforce development professionals are assembled in Smyrna today for the first TNTrained class, a new initiative of the College System of Tennessee, the state Department of Economic and Community Development and other state agencies.

TNTrained’s mission is to create a unified, statewide approach for retaining, growing and attracting businesses to Tennessee by training economic and workforce development professionals in higher education and state and local agencies with a knowledge base of practices, strategies and skills. The training will also develop a “tool box” of resources for their work with business and industry to create new jobs for Tennesseans.

The program is a total of 40 hours, spread over four sessions during the next three months. The inaugural class convened Tuesday for its first two-day session, at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology—Murfreesboro’s Smyrna Campus. Sessions will cover Basic and Advanced Economic Development, Building the TNTrained Team, and developing the TNTrained Tool Box.

The program concludes with participants working on a capstone project in which they will apply knowledge learned. Each participant who successfully completes the program will be awarded a TNTrained certificate.

Officials of the College System, the Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD), the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the state Department of Human Resources – all partners in the TNTrained initiative – addressed the participants in a kickoff ceremony Tuesday.

College System Chancellor Flora W. Tydings said TNTrained is a major component of a project the Tennessee Board of Regents (the College System’s governing board) launched last year when it established a new Office of Economic and Community Development. The office was created to ensure that the state’s community and technical colleges are working with state and local agencies to provide the academic and technical training business and industry need – and to serve as a higher education resource in business recruiting efforts.

Tydings and ECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced creation of TNTrained at the annual Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in October. This week’s session launches the first class.

“Why did a higher education system help establish TNTrained? You need only look around our country to see that innovative companies cluster around towns and cities with colleges and universities,” Tydings said. “But our colleges needed to become more nimble and be able to respond faster to the workforce development needs of business and industry that the state and local governments recruit.”

Tydings also said that “everyone involved in economic development should be singing off the same song sheet when it comes to recruiting new business and industry and helping our existing businesses expand. That’s specifically what TNTrained is all about.”

Ann Thompson, ECD’s director of workforce development who worked with TBR to create the program, said “The number one concern of business today is workforce. Having a unified college system to proactively addresses challenges and quickly respond to opportunities will make Tennessee  more competitive for economic development projects.  We are grateful for Chancellor Tydings’ leadership to implement TNTrained and look forward to enhancing our workforce offerings.”

Others who spoke to the class Tuesday included Allen Borden, ECD’s deputy commissioner of business, community and rural development; Melinda Kelsey, chief of staff at the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and Carol Puryear, TBR’s vice chancellor for economic and community development.

The first session continues today (Wednesday), and resumes with Session 2 February 21-22, Session 3 March 20-21, and Session 4 April 9. For the second and third sessions, participants will meet in their region of the state -- at Jackson State Community College, Columbia State Community College’s Williamson Campus in Franklin, and Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville. The concluding session returns to TCAT-Murfreesboro’s Smyrna Campus.

Another new TBR workforce development initiative, approved by the Board of Regents in December, will create a “Warranty of Competency” for graduates of the system’s technical training programs. The warranty goes into effect with students who enter applicable programs this fall. It will provide one-time retraining, free of charge to graduates, who are unable to perform one or more of the skills and competencies identified for their specific programs. It is valid for one year from the date of graduation.

The warranty is applicable to graduates of the College System’s technical programs which offer an Associate of Applied Science degree, diploma or technical certified of credit. The policy will not apply to failure to pass a licensure exam. Full details are in the warranty policy approved by the board.

For more information on TBR’s Office of Economic and Community Development and TNTrained:

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.