LEAP Generates Nearly 1,000 In-Demand Postsecondary Credentials in First Full Year of Operation; THEC Recommends Additional Expansion of Program

Thursday, January 05, 2017 | 12:56pm

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NASHVILLE, TNJanuary 5 – The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) released the 2017 Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) Report on Thursday, revealing that in the first full year of operation, LEAP programs across the state produced nearly 1,000 postsecondary credentials in high-demand industries. The graduates credentialed through LEAP address Tennessee’s shortage of skilled workers to fill job openings in fields such as manufacturing and production, healthcare, and information technology.

Of the 938 LEAP graduates in 2016, 608 have already been hired into in-demand, high-wage jobs such as mechatronics engineers, electricity and industrial maintenance technicians, and welders. A total of 3,403 high school students and 2,065 postsecondary students have enrolled in LEAP-supported courses and training programs to develop skills sought by Tennessee employers. Enrolled students are positioned to gain a degree or credential to qualify them to fill jobs where skilled candidates are scarce.

“Through LEAP programs that are tailored for each community, students now have easy access to the credentials they need for available, in-demand jobs,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause. “By getting students into dual enrollment courses and expanding postsecondary options in these fields, we are addressing the skills gap and creating a pool of qualified graduates for employers desperately in need of them.”

As a result of the success of the program, THEC recommends in the report that LEAP expand to serve all 95 counties in Tennessee; currently, technical courses and credentials through the program are available to students in 67 counties. Through LEAP, an initiative of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55, K-12 school districts, postsecondary institutions, and local employers partner
together to provide credit-bearing education, career training, and professional development to high school and college students in Tennessee.

The 2017 LEAP Report highlights data from the program’s current projects, such as enrollments and program completions, and the many successes seen across the state. Local highlights include:

  •  A LEAP project led by Nashville State Community College and the North Tennessee Workforce Board launched a mechatronics training program at Fort Campbell. The program allowed transitioning veterans to earn a Level I Siemens Certified Mechatronic Systems Assistant certification, and in just the first year, 110 veterans (97 percent of those enrolled) completed the program.
  • In East Tennessee, the LEAP project led by Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Morristown introduced a Work Ethic Diploma to five local high schools. To date, 316 students have completed the diploma, which demonstrates their commitment to attendance, punctuality, workplace behavior, and adherence to a drug-free workplace. All students who complete the diploma are guaranteed at least one interview with one of the project’s industry partners.

As of December 2016, LEAP provided over 19,847 training and workforce development experiences for students across the state. Services included providing new and expanded dual enrollment opportunities for high school students, funding new training equipment for postsecondary institutions, and formalizing partnerships with employers to provide students with exposure to career opportunities, such as internships and job shadowing.

The full 2017 LEAP Annual Report is available on THEC’s website at www.tn.gov/thec.

The Labor Education Alignment Program, an initiative of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55, partners K-12 school districts, postsecondary institutions, and local employers to provide credit-bearing career training and professional development to high school and college students. The program was implemented in two rounds, starting in 2014 with twelve grant awards across the state, totaling $10 million. In 2016, an additional $10 million in grants were awarded to twelve new collaboratives, known as the LEAP 2.0 projects.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission was created in 1967 by the Tennessee General Assembly. The Commission develops, implements, and evaluates postsecondary education policies and programs in Tennessee while coordinating the state’s systems of higher education, and is relentlessly focused on increasing the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential.

2017 LEAP Annual Report Summary Graphic