Kingsport Times News Saturday, November 1, 2014

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Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Lack of skilled workers a concern

January 25th, 2014 6:33 pm by Hank Hayes

Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Lack of skilled workers a concern

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says lawmakers are making strides to improve workforce development by passing education reforms. Times-News file photo.

KINGSPORT — Tennessee’s lack of a qualified and skilled workforce is becoming the business community’s “strongest concern,” the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) advised lawmakers during a regional legislative breakfast on Friday.

 “Tennessee businesses have experienced drastic changes in technology and innovation,” TCCI said in its policy agenda distributed at the breakfast. “The education of our workforce has not kept up with these changes. ... To ensure that Tennessee is a premier destination for business, our state’s citizens must possess the skills needed for the workplace of the 21st century.” 

TCCI has thrown its support behind common core standards emphasizing problem-solving and next-generation assessments going beyond multiple-choice tests to increase college and career readiness. The state chamber also backs Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative to increase the percentage of Tennesseans earning higher education diplomas.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, pointed out recent academic success in National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) testing, which showed Tennessee had the largest growth of any state in a single testing cycle since NAEP started nationwide assessments a decade ago.

Ramsey also noted lawmakers now tie test scores to teacher evaluations and have eliminated collective bargaining in school systems.

“We’ve removed that barrier where the teachers and school board have to go through that union filter,” Ramsey told business leaders at the breakfast. “There’s nothing more important than having a quality teacher in the classroom, period. .... It’s so important you have that trained workforce to move forward. There will be efforts this year to take a step back and we don’t want that. ... We need to keep moving forward.” 

For an expanded version of this article, please see Sunday's print edition or our expanded electronic edition.

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