Innovative program provides cooperative effort between government, education and manufacturing in training skilled workforce

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) today urged local collaboratives to apply for the state’s new Labor Education and Alignment Program (LEAP) grants which are focused on enabling students in Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and community colleges to participate in technical training developed with input from area employers. The innovative program, sponsored by Norris, provides for cooperative efforts between government, education and businesses to fill the skills gaps in the local workforce pool, while increasing the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees.

The notice of intent for applicants to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) to compete for grants of up to $1 million is due no later than Wednesday, October 15.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for communities to provide workers with the skills they need to get a job and advance in the workplace,” said Leader Norris. “The cooperative training then counts as part of an approved curriculum toward a meaningful certificate or degree, enabling Tennesseans to simultaneously work, earn and learn.”

Qualifying collaboratives are defined as a partnership that includes at least three counties. The applicants must represent a partnership consisting of the following entities:

• A local economic development agency, chamber of commerce or workforce board;
• A community college or college of applied technology;
• The local K-12 school district; or
• Two or more local employers with a demonstrated shortage of skilled workers

Major metropolitan areas with a population greater than 170,000 may apply as a single applicant; however, priority will be given to those proposals that incorporate additional county partners.

“Tennessee employers keep asking for job candidates with the requisite skills needed in today’s technologically-advanced workplace,” added Norris. “The LEAP grants provide a collaborative effort to accomplish this, while giving our state and local economic development leaders a huge boost as they recruit new jobs to Tennessee. It is a win-win for everyone, especially the students or workers who participate in the program.”

The grant program is funded by a $10 million appropriation in the 2014-15 state budget also sponsored by Norris. A selection committee consisting of representatives from higher education, the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Labor will review the proposals and select those that most clearly address the needs of current employers or serve as a catalyst to recruit new manufacturing industries to the state. Final proposals must be received by November 17. The RFP application can be found at: http://www.tn.gov/thec/

“Overall, these grants will serve to attract advanced manufacturing, strengthen our economy, and improve the quality of life for all Tennesseans. I hope to see many proposals submitted,” Norris concluded.

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