There have been many insightful and educational articles that have been published in this newsletter and I hope you find this one to be equal to those. Many of you have heard of the recently published report, Chattanooga 2.0 regarding the state of talent within the Hamilton county area. For those who may not be familiar with this document let me take a few minutes of your time to elaborate on the issues facing Chattanooga as they apply to current and future talent.
The Benwood Foundation, whose mission is “to support the people and projects that make Chattanooga a great city”, published the document which focuses on the strength of our future workforce. The foundation’s leadership spent time outlining the positive aspects of Hamilton county such as being one of the top 10 metro areas in the country for growing advanced industries and the fact that Chattanooga is ranked 4th on WalletHub’s 2015 list of “best Cities to Start a Business”. As everyone who has any vested interest in Chattanooga knows there are many great reasons to work, live, and build a business here.
What many may not be aware of is the critical issues surrounding the preparation of the future workforce within the Hamilton county area. Issues such as “only 24 percent of Chattanooga State students and 51 percent of UTC students graduate with a degree in six years” and it is important to remember that Chattanooga State is only a two-year school. Additionally, Hamilton county schools recently scored the lowest possible score, a 1 on the 3 state report card measurements.
What members of organizations such as ATD must be involved at every level to ensure that Chattanooga has a workforce with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to fill the more than 10,000 jobs that are projected to arrive in the next few years and start to fill the gap of the more than 15,000 Hamilton county jobs that currently cannot be filled by Hamilton county residents due to the lack of training, skills, and education.
The Association of Talent Development can be on the frontlines to ensure that Chattanooga has a workforce that is trained, educated, and has the necessary skill sets to fill the needs of area employers. This can be done with cooperation from other organizations and the focus must be on those skills and abilities that employers want and desperately need. With the achievement gap in math and English widening for Hamilton county students the future is bleak given the fact that most of the projected job growth is in the advanced industries sectors which require a strong foundation of math and English.
Without a solid foundation upon which to build the future workforce it is hard to conceive of a situation in which additional training on topic such as soft skills can occur. Soft skills such as interpersonal communication, decision making, critical thinking, and problem solving will drop to the bottom of employers’ wish lists as they search to find employees who can meet minimum standards simply to get their doors open.
As the members of the Benwood Foundation stated, we must begin to rethink, reimagine, and possibly reengineer the way our community leverages economic opportunity for all. The members of ATD can be part of the engine of change in the Chattanooga area.
Jim Ray, 2016 Vice President of ATD Chattanooga
Currently I am the Academic Dean of Virginia College – Chattanooga where I have served for the past four years. Prior to moving to Chattanooga, I was the Academic Dean of Fortis College in Indianapolis Indiana. Working in the career college industry since 2002 in various roles such as Instructor, Academic Dean, Academic Dean of Online Studies, and Director of Admissions.
Prior to career in higher education I spent twenty-years in the United States Air Force until my retirement at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. During my Air Force career I was an aircraft mechanic on KC-135 and E3-A aircraft. I also served as the non-commissioned officer in charge of the total quality management office where I was charged with training squadron personnel in quality teams and tools concepts. I was a certified facilitator of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and taught those concepts to more than 800 Air Force and civilian personnel.
I am currently working on my dissertation as part of my doctoral program at Capella University and plan to finish the program by June or July 2016. I earned a master’s of business administration from Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and a bachelor’s of business from Park University in Parkville, Missouri.