Educating the Workforce of Tomorrow Fall 2017 | Page 2

INTRODUCTION Tennessee’s economy is growing, with the lowest unemployment rate in recorded state history and rising wages. [1,2] Across Tennessee’s public high schools, students are achieving at higher levels on end of course exams and graduating at historic levels. [3,4] Tennessee Promise has lowered financial barriers to postsecondary education for tens of thousands of students. [5] It seems there is no better time to be a Tennessee student transitioning from high school to postsecondary and career than now. Yet a number of obstacles stand in the way of Tennessee’s economic Local and regional leaders are coming together to discuss what it will take to secure tomorrow’s ready workforce. This brief provides a common foundation for these conversations. and educational progress. Although nearly nine in ten students graduate from high school, only two in ten students meet college readiness benchmarks in all four subject areas measured by the ACT. [6] Furthermore, stark achievement gaps persist among students. For example, four times the percentage of white students meet three or more college-ready benchmarks in English, math, reading, and science than their black peers. While the percentage of Tennessee students who need remediation in the first year of college has dropped 14.4 points since 2011, 62 percent of students still require some kind of remediation before taking on postsecondary coursework. [7] Tennessee’s leaders have responded to these challenges with a number of policies, programs, and resources. This brief provides an overview of postsecondary and career readiness efforts at the state, regional, and local levels, with the goal of better equipping leaders in education, business, and government to take advantage of opportunities and identify areas of improvement. There is perhaps no more pressing issue for Tennessee’s communities in the coming years than advancing student readiness for postsecondary education and career. STATE-LEVEL INITIATIVES In 2014, Governor Bill Haslam challenged Tennessee with a new goal – equip 55 percent of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. By that time, more than half the jobs in the state will require a degree or certification beyond a high school diploma. [8] Currently, only 39 percent of Tennesseans hold a postsecondary degree or credential. If 55 percent of Tennesseans were to obtain a college credential by 2025, new degree holders would stand to gain over $9.3 billion in additional annual income. [9] These earnings would generate approximately $434 million more in state tax revenues and $312 million in local revenues. [10] EDUCATING THE WORKFORCE OF TOMORROW 1 Postsecondary And Career Readiness In Tennessee