This article originally appeared in the Tennessean.
At the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, we recognize that our business community serves as a driver for prosperity and economic opportunity in our state’s urban, suburban and rural areas, and we work to keep our finger on the pulse of industry’s needs. Overwhelmingly, workforce challenges are noted as businesses’ most pressing concern, with over 90% of recent survey respondents noting it as their No. 1 concern and approaching crisis levels.
The Tennessee Chamber, partnering with five other trade associations, decided to take action to ensure students know about the tremendous opportunities that await them with in-demand technical careers available across our entire state. Looking at the manufacturing sector specifically, about 1.4 million U.S. jobs were lost during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study. However, manufacturing, along with other industry sectors, has largely recovered those lost jobs and is now urgently seeking more skilled workers.
In Tennessee, we have a labor shortage in the skilled trades, which means there is high demand in the construction, trade and manufacturing industries, which offer rewarding high-paying careers – oftentimes without the need for a four-year degree. Over the next three years our state is projecting 315,000 job openings in the trades alone. With only one tradesperson set to enter the industry for every five who are retiring, it’s critical that we address the labor shortage for Tennessee to remain an economic powerhouse.
Be Pro Be Proud mobile workshop launch
This urgent need is why the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, in partnership with Associated Builders and Contractors – Greater Tennessee, McKee Foods, the Tennessee Concrete Association, the Tennessee Forestry Association, the Tennessee Road Builders Association and the Tennessee Trucking Association, is excited to launch the Be Pro Be Proud Tennessee Mobile Technical Career Workshop and Information Center. Be Pro Be Proud Tennessee, representing a collective industry effort in bolstering the skilled-trades workforce in Tennessee, will launch at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin on Sept. 25. The launch event will officially kick off the statewide Be Pro Be Proud tour that will usher in a new era of pride, progress and professionals to Tennessee’s skilled workforce as we work to fill the skills gap in the state.
Meta is hosting the launch event in partnership with Volunteer State Community College and the Sumner County School District, further demonstrating the importance of private-public partnerships in preparing the workforce for the future. Following the event, the mobile unit will stay in Sumner County for the remainder of the week for over 800 Sumner County high school students to tour the workshop.
The Be Pro Be Proud mobile workshop, a custom-built semi-truck housing career simulations, is aimed at informing middle and high school students about the tremendous potential in technical careers. Be Pro Be Proud spans six states, 526 cities, has 1,802 tour stops nationwide and is continuing to gain interest. Our Tennessee-specific mobile workforce unit will partner with K-12 and technical schools across the state, providing tours and hands-on experiences for students. The workshop is a cutting-edge, interactive experience designed to introduce students and job-seekers to the rewarding world of skilled trades using VR and AR simulations. The workshop showcases the high-tech and high-paying careers that are available in industries such as manufacturing, construction, forestry, agriculture, commercial truck driving and more.
Go Build Tennessee deserves thanks
We are thankful for the appropriation from Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly and generous industry supporters like our chairmen partners Meta and Nissan for making this career development opportunity possible for students across our state. Lastly, we appreciate Go Build Tennessee for its ongoing efforts to bring awareness to the trades in Tennessee while recruiting a new generation of skilled tradespeople for the construction industries. Together, our state, private sector and schools are coming together to increase awareness and support meaningful and rewarding careers in the skilled trades, construction and manufacturing. I encourage Tennessee students, parents and guidance counselors to explore the beprobeproudtn.org website to learn more about the program and the options it provides and to explore gobuildtennessee.com to learn more about skilled-trades careers.
Bradley Jackson is the president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry
and the Tennessee Manufacturers Association.