MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- By 2025, more than 50 percent of the jobs in the state are expected to require some type of post-secondary degree, and that is why grants like the one to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro are vital for the future, Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday.
“Right now, only 32 percent of our population meets that requirement,” Haslam said while speaking to a crowd of more than 230 people during a Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at the Embassy Suites and Conference Center in Murfreesboro.
“We have a great work culture here in Tennessee. Our education has improved, but we still have to focus on strengthening our workforce,” he said, adding his administration is determined to continue implementing initiatives designed to provide an educated workforce in the coming years.
Having an educated workforce is an important factor in making sure the state has a robust economy that comprises diverse fields and industries, which in the long run is beneficial during recessions – one industry does not determine how well a state weathers economic downturns, he said.
Prior to his speech at the luncheon, Haslam announced the College of Applied Technology has been awarded more than $625,000 to pay for equipment that is needed for training students.
Earlier this year, Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly approved $16.5 million in the 2013 budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at state-run schools and community colleges.
The grant is just one of many he has doled in recent months as part of his “Drive to 55” initiative, which is aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.
“The purchase of this equipment for (Tennessee College of Applied Technology) will allow the school to provide high-tech training to meet workforce needs in the Murfreesboro area,” Haslam said during a tour of the facilities prior to the Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Haslam said his decision to make “strategic investments” in higher education came in response to the business community expressing concern over the lack of capacity and equipment at state-run technology schools and community colleges that is needed to meet job demands.
As such, these grants are designed to “address those gaps,” Haslam said.
“This will not only help train Tennesseans for skilled jobs but minimize the necessity for area employers to seek skilled workers from out of state,” he said, adding because “these workforce development grants help us directly meet workforce training needs” companies will be less likely to look elsewhere for skilled workers.
The grant technology school, which is located on Old Fort Parkway, will address needs for equipment for instruction in mechanical systems, electronics, industrial motor controls, hydraulics, pneumatics and wiring, according to officials.
The school will be able to purchase several pieces of high-tech training equipment, which is designed to align with advanced manufacturing training programs with area industries and businesses, such as Nissan North America.
Graduation from the industrial maintenance program, as well as courses in machinery and heating and cooling systems, provides students with up to 30 credit hours to transfer to a community college toward an applied associate degree in general technology.
Throughout much of his speech during the luncheon, Haslam also stressed the importance of making sure Tennessee remains a business-friendly state – not just by having an educated workforce but by keeping taxes low as well.
“We are among the lowest taxed states in the country right now,” Haslam said, adding the General Assembly recently eliminated the inheritance tax and gift tax.
It would be counterproductive for the state to recruit a lot of new companies, while at the same time punish employees who stay here after retirement by taxing them for dying or giving a gift, Haslam said.
“We also lowered the sales tax on groceries,” he said, “because that is a tax that every Tennessean pays, no matter their income.”
All of these legislative and administrative decisions are designed to do one thing: Make Tennessee the top choice for business, so that there are plenty of jobs in a variety of fields and industries.
Haslam pointed out that these efforts have resulted in real results, noting that Tennessee has been first in wage growth, first in manufacturing job growth, and second in overall job growth nationally.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to make Tennessee the top state for job growth and economic development,” he said, “and as long as I am in office, we will continue to do everything we can to accomplish that goal.”
To view more photos of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce luncheon, visit The Murfreesboro Post online photo gallery.