As the technology job market expands, so too has the popularity of education in that field. For many higher education programs and even secondary schools, tech ed has become a staple, whether it's information technology, computer science, mechanical engineering or another related study. However, there are thousands of working adults whose school days are in the rear view mirror - and for whom technology is not an area of expertise. Recently, there has been little recourse for these individuals to get a degree in a more advanced field. As a result, their employment options are more limited.
However, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam rolled out the RECONNECT program at the beginning of this year, under which every adult will be given the chance to attend a Tennessee College of Applied Technology free of tuition, according to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. That education would provide training and certificates that could unlock a number of more lucrative, meaningful job opportunities. Additionally, the state's employers will benefit from the increased availability of skilled professionals needed to fill gaps in the workforce.
"New initiatives could unlock a number of more lucrative, meaningful job opportunities."
Tech focus brings growth to Nashville
Governor Haslam predicted in January 2015 that his state's renewed focus on tech education and employment through the RECONNECT program would bring strength to the technology industry. Additionally, Haslam told the Department of Economic and Community Development that in fall 2015, 25,000 students would attend technical and community colleges free of tuition. Among those, 68 percent will be the first in their family to attend college.
But the Tennessee governor wasn't the only person with high hopes. According a recent study reported by Fortune Magazine, Nashville was the country's second fastest-growing market for tech jobs from December 2013 to December 2014. In that period, the city added 24 percent more jobs in the tech industry than the previous one-year period. That growth occurred before the RECONNECT program, so it stands to reason even more, newly-skilled individuals will find employment in the technology sector by the next yearly survey.
"The city itself has done a magnificent job of promoting technology job growth by investing in programs like the Nashville Technology Council and The Entrepreneur Center," says Joe Cox, Division Director for Beacon Hill Technologies in Nashville. "They made a massive effort in bringing Google Fiber to the Middle Tennessee area, which is expected to go live here in the next year or so."
Cox believes that the government's investment plays a large part in why the Music City is going techno. "Nashville has been growing exponentially over the past six years, especially on the technology side," he says. "In just those six years we have seen multiple Fortune 100/500 companies make the decision to relocate here to Middle Tennessee."
Other sectors prove strong
Tennessee's technology industry is thriving, but the state is no one-trick pony. It has earned the reputation of having one of the most skilled workforces in the nation, which goes beyond tech jobs. Here are a few of the other areas where Tennessee's job market is looking strong, according to TNECD:
- Transportation and logistics should continue to expand as the price of oil remains low.
- Capital investment is a significant strength, as the state has received over $15 billion in private sector funding in the last four year, which helped create 210,000 new jobs in that span.
- Entrepreneurs, small businesses and medium businesses benefit from several initiatives designed to aid their growth.
Under the current conditions, Tennessee is a business-friendly state, making it a desirable region for employers and employees to connect.
"This is an excellent time for Music City," explains Amy Culpepper, the Division Director of Beacon Hill Financial in Nashville. "Not only are we growing as a community with over 80 people a day relocating to the Greater Nashville area, we have consistently seen month over month job growth with many companies relocating corporate headquarters as well as Shared Services Division here."
Culpepper also agrees that technology is not the only boon for the city's economy. "The healthcare industry continues to be a strong element leading to growth opportunities," she mentions. "Nashville has a rich history in the manufacturing industry, especially in the automotive sector. Many large distribution centers have also moved into our area that are connected to retail and manufacturing, making sure Nashville continues to be a hub for the South."
With the initiatives and investments in place, Nashville, Chattanooga and other major cities should all improve in the technology sector and across the board.
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