Knoxville’s regional growth hinges on the ability to create and maintain a qualified, available workforce. The development of a qualified talent pipeline needs to begin earlier and last longer and will require an innovative mindset, a deeper engagement of business and industry and committed partnerships with education providers.

The industry disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in urgency around helping workers find new jobs and develop additional skills. A coordinated, multifaceted regional strategy is required to ensure cohesion with partners.  This Workforce Redefined strategy is one of the six Path to Prosperity priorities.

Phase 1: Research

  • Interviews with business leaders and regional stakeholders
  • Talent assessment survey
  • Benchmarking

Phase 2: Development

  • Working sessions with interest groups
  • Coordination with regional stakeholders
  • Complete regional workforce development
    strategy white paper

Phase 3: Implementation

  • Public release of strategy and
     for regional action
  • Identify component “champions”
  • Track and measure results

Regional Workforce Development Strategy Components


Adopt a holistic view of workforce development, one that is more responsive and flexible, with better coordination and sharing of information among service providers
  • Push for a highly productive regional workforce investment board (i.e., American Job Center)
  • Support better information sharing and collaboration among workforce service providers
  • Pivot focus on needs and outcomes; not money and goals
  • Expand labor pool by supporting populations with barriers



Empower employers to participate in regional workforce development efforts to better meet the long-term needs of the regional business community
  • Assist education providers in the creation of industry-specific employer advisory roles
  • Create employer-informed programs within post-secondary institutions
  • Encourage a regional increase of average wages for skilled trades employment
  • Participate in conversations with employers to hire minority populations and populations with barriers
  • Encourage employers to create internal pathways and onboarding plans to encourage employee growth and retention
  • Identify data and other mechanisms to quantify the need for skills and training



Prepare workforce-ready graduates by supporting more career awareness, exploration and training opportunities
  • Create a continuum of activities and career pathways for high-demand occupational clusters as well as entrepreneurial skill and soft skill development
  • Increase awareness of opportunity and growth within skilled trades careers
  • Engage employers in the creation of practicums that can be delivered in COVID-19 and post-pandemic environment
  • Support educators’ learning in local workplaces
  • Advocate for continued and expanded use of YouScience
  • Support creation of more internship, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs



Create more targeted accelerated training opportunities that are responsive to economic conditions
  • Work with employers to identify common, frequently acceptable certifications
  • Create rapid response teams to upskill and reskill displaced employees (e.g., COVID-19 pandemic)
  • Provide opportunities to upskill and reskill employees when business processes change
  • Support efforts to increase funding for the completion of certifications



Support more equitable and accessible education, training and employment opportunities
  • Expand career awareness and exploration opportunities in underserved schools, including Austin-East, Fulton and Carter High Schools, as well as the Career Magnet Academy
  • Encourage participation of women and minorities in STEM
  • Actively seek to remove barriers to education, training, and workplaces including transportation, broadband access and lack of access to information
  • Support equitable educational opportunities for all students, including adult learners who did not complete a secondary education credential, to acquire a level of basic skills needed to enter the workforce
  • Support efforts for more minority representation in education, training, and workforce services



Champion top-tier reading and math skills for public education students as measured by nationally recognized standards
  • Support expansion of high-quality early education programs
  • Promote the continued implementation of state standards and assessments
  • Support efforts intended to enhance the preparation, recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers
  • Advocate for increased funding of Knox County Schools, particularly to address learning loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of Internet access and eliminate disparities among socioeconomic groups
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