June 26, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) began a pre-Fourth of July, week-long workforce development and education tour across Tennessee in Nashville today with remarks during the Pathways Tennessee State Summit at Vanderbilt University.

“As we approach July 4th and celebrate the birth of our nation, we need also to celebrate the economic freedom which flows from a quality education and a good job,” said Norris. “It has been said that a quality education means workforce and economic development. Altogether, it means economic freedom and the independence we hold dear.”

Norris was appointed by Governor Bill Haslam to the State Workforce Development Board in 2013. Since becoming Chairman of the national Council of State Governments (CSG) this year, Norris has made workforce development and education his focus through the organization’s “State Pathways to Prosperity” initiative.

“Our State Pathways to Prosperity initiative also focuses on other challenges which affect individuals seeking employment,” added Norris. “This includes challenges faced by veterans, the re-entry of law abiding citizens with past criminal records and the effect of hunger and child poverty on job seekers,” said Norris.

Norris will visit the Veterans Administration Hospital in Memphis on Friday. He is the breakfast speaker at the Tracy Dewitt Patriotic Breakfast at the Bartlett Recreation Center Saturday morning. He will host the “Republican Leaders’ Feed” event at Agricenter International where volunteers will pack 20,000 meals in 90 minutes for distribution by the Mid-South Food Bank.

On Monday, Norris and the CSG Justice Center will meet with national leaders and private sector representatives to discuss unemployment rates among those with criminal histories. Tennessee enacted legislation this year to allow individuals applying for a post-conviction restoration of rights with certificates of employability.

“Elected officials across the political spectrum are focusing on high unemployment rates among millions of adults with criminal records,” said Norris. “We recognize that government alone can’t solve this problem. We need to design strategies that are good for business and that put people who are now law-abiding citizens to work. We’re calling on all states to have the same kind of conversation at the state level.”

Norris will address the Northeast Tennessee Workforce Investment Board in Johnson City, Tennessee Tuesday morning before visiting 100 Girls of Code at Roane State Community College Oak Ridge Campus in the afternoon. 100 Girls is sponsored by East Tennessee’s STEM Hub, “STEMspark.”

“Computer science and computer engineering have the highest median earnings for recent college graduates without advanced degrees, and only 12 percent are women,” said Norris. “Programs like STEMspark are working to change this.”

“I look forward to quality time at home with my family over the Fourth of July holiday,” said Norris. “It’s a great time to reflect on history and focus on our future. As advanced manufacturing and advanced industries return to the United States, I am convinced that our nation has a new rendezvous with destiny. We must close the skills gaps depriving our citizens of economic freedom. Give them the tools, and our new workforce will finish the job fulfilling our destiny to be the most free and most productive country in the world. Tennessee can be the flagship in this fight.”

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