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Gov. Bill Lee announces Future Workforce Initiative, local educators weigh in

Brandon Paykamian • Feb 14, 2019 at 6:36 PM

Gov. Bill Lee announced Wednesday a new initiative meant to increase science, technology, engineering and math training in K-12 schools.

The Future Workforce Initiative “aims to put Tennessee in the top 25 states for job creating in the technology sector by 2020” by launching a new career and technical programs focused on STEM fields with 100 new middle school programs and tripling the number of STEM-designated public schools.

The initiative also aims to increase the number of teachers qualified to teach work-based learning and computer science through teacher training and implementation of K-8 computer standards. In addition, the initiative plans to expand post-secondary STEM opportunities in high schools through increased access to dual enrollment credit and AP courses.

“Governor Lee's Future Workforce Initiative is the right move for Tennessee. STEM initiatives such as this are vital to growing our state's workforce and by extension our state's economy,” Washington County Schools Director Bill Flanary said following the announcement. “Our high schools are already offering advanced computer coursework, so I'm particularly excited about the concept of implementing K-8 computer science standards.”

The governor said his agenda is “a direct response to the emerging technology industry and making sure our students are first in line to be qualified for technology jobs.” The initiative, according to the governor, is in support of the Tennessee Department of Education’s “Tennessee Pathways” certification process, as well as the STEM School Designation partnership involving groups such as Tennessee STEM Innovation and Code.org.

“Fifty-eight percent of all STEM jobs created in the country are in computing, but only 8 percent of graduates study computer science in college,” Lee said in a Wednesday press release. “By exposing Tennessee students to computer science in their K-12 careers, we are ensuring our kids have every chance to land a high-quality job.

“I look forward to working closely with the legislature to ensure every student has access to a high-quality career, and to get there, we’ll need to make STEM education a reality for students across Tennessee.”

Lee recommended a $4 million investment to implement the statewide initiative.

“Johnson City Schools has filed our intent with the TDOE to offer several Tennessee Pathways to certification and designation, including several in the career and technical area, as well as designation pathways in the humanities, math and science, the fine arts and military science. We applaud Governor Lee's efforts to continue to emphasize these student opportunities, and Science Hill High School is committed to offering many of these pathways to serve the highest possible number of our students,” David Timbs, the school system’s director of secondary and instructional technology, said.

“We are also looking at local job market trends and demands to specifically aid us in determining which programs at Science Hill High School we need to add and which ones we need to adjust.”

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