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Weekend edition November 17, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

‘865 Academies’ and ‘GIVE 2.0’ aim to expand Knoxville technology workforce

A joint workshop hosted by Lauren Longmire from the Chamber and Matthew Kittrell representing KTech and CGI was held on Tuesday to share insights on how the community can contribute.

Knoxville is emerging as a thriving hub for entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology. Despite the increasing array of opportunities, there’s a significant challenge: the labor supply isn’t keeping pace. This issue is frequently voiced by technology companies in the area.

Matthew Kittrell, KTech and CGI

In response, the Knoxville Chamber and the Knoxville Technology Council (KTech) have joined forces to tackle this problem. The first step involved gaining an understanding of the issue. The Technology Workforce Skills Gap Survey identified key areas that require improvement, such as technology interest, education, training, and retention (see article).

Subsequently, the results were revealed within the local technology industry at the KTech Technology Pulse Summit on November 2 ( see article). Currently, the focus is on implementing new strategies to address the identified needs. A joint workshop hosted by Lauren Longmire from the Chamber and Matthew Kittrell representing KTech and CGI was held on Tuesday to share insights on how the community can contribute.

The workforce gaps include:

  1. Thirty-six tech companies collectively anticipate needing to fill between 400 and 800 new tech positions in the next five years.
  2. Fewer than 300 students graduate annually from local universities with degrees in computer and tech-related fields.
  3. Most companies doubt the preparedness of college or community college graduates for the workforce, citing a lack of internships, apprenticeships, and credentialing.

Knox County Schools Initiatives

Lauren Longmire, Knoxville Chamber

Encouragingly, various agencies and organizations are committed to addressing these gaps by introducing new programs targeting young people. One notable effort is the 865 Academies initiative by Knox County Schools (KCS), which focuses on high school students.  The goal is to ensure students have a plan upon graduation.

Shannon Jackson from KCS, speaking at Tuesday’s event, emphasized the importance of educating students about careers that fill gaps and offer financial compensation. The KCS 865 Academies aim to achieve this through guest speakers, career expos, job shadowing, internships, and work-based learning opportunities.

Despite progress, challenges persist. Last year, Knox County Schools connected 750 students. Now, the school system is urging businesses to step forward and provide students with a “foot in the door.” The hope is to reach 4,500 students with work-based porgrams.

Pellissippi State Community College Initiatives

At the community college level, Pellissippi State is leveraging the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) 2.0 Grant to offer apprenticeships, earn-and-learn programs, and internships. The grant aims to enhance and expand academic programs that address local workforce needs. there have been positive outcomes, including over 1,220 middle and high school participants, 59 students earning certifications, and a 20 percent increase in work-based learning.

By collaborating, the Chamber and KTech envision numerous opportunities to cultivate the technology landscape in Knoxville.

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