Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam selected The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as the site to gather regional leaders from business, K-12, and post-secondary education on Thursday, August 23. While participants engaged in candid conversations about their successful collaborations, they also discussed the need for improvement as educators strive to provide appropriate academic career skills to complement the needs of employers.
“If we are going to be a state that attracts companies to locate and grow here—a state that keeps its best and brightest graduates here with good-paying, high-quality jobs, there is nothing more important we can do than to focus on education,” Haslam said. “There is a lot of consensus around K-12 education reform efforts, and I think we have the opportunity to become a national model in approaching post-secondary education as well.”
Volkswagen, Unum, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Alstom and Wacker were among the businesses represented. Elected officials also joined the discussion.
Haslam asked the business leaders what they felt needed to be addressed in the education process. They asked for better math and science skills, more depth of knowledge, fluency in Spanish, more soft skills, and development of critical thinking.
UTC Chancellor Roger Brown suggested that best practices in higher education be showcased in Tennessee.
“Last spring, UTC completed our SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) review. We decided to integrate critical thinking skills into the curriculum, mostly with hands-on learning,” Brown said.
Previous business/education discussions were held in Blountville, Cookeville, Jackson, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville.
The governor serves as chair of the UT Board of Trustees and Tennessee Board of Regents systems.
As chairman of the Southern Growth Policies Board, Haslam held a regional meeting in Chattanooga in late June to focus on workforce preparation issues that highlighted Tennessee companies from across the state.