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VOL. 40 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 12, 2016

Phillips: Midstate has added 5K construction jobs since 2010

By Linda Bryant

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If you’re a Tennessean looking for a great job with a future and find yourself compulsively checking online websites such as Career Builder, Monster.com or LinkedIn, you might want to add another tool – Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s website at www.jobs4tn.gov.

TDLWD has an extensive statewide job board and multiple career and education research tools for everyone from college students to veterans to second-career seekers. Employers in both the public and private sectors post job opportunities on the site.

Earlier this year the job board posted a record number of postings – almost 200,000 jobs – at Jobs4TN.gov.

TDLWD also has education and outreach programs that reach deep into Tennessee small towns and cities and underserved areas. For example, it sponsors three “career coaches,” RV-like buses that travel into communities staffed with a career specialist who can help Tennessee residents with resumes, interviewing and career and education counseling.

The Ledger spoke with Commissioner Burns Philips, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2013, about the state’s most promising careers.

Phillips worked in state government in the budget office of the Department of Finance and Administration for seven years before entering the private sector. In 1991, he founded a surgical instrument company that conducted business in the United States, Canada, Mexico and 28 countries throughout Europe, South America and the Pacific Rim.

Are there certain areas of the state that have specific job shortages and/or specific job opportunities that aren’t quite as in-demand hot in other cities? For example, are there more jobs for nuclear engineers in the Knoxville area? More openings for health care in Nashville, etc.

“In the eastern part of the state, around Oak Ridge, engineers and researchers continue to be in demand, while in the Nashville area, jobs for medical and health service managers will be growing faster than in other areas of the state.

“Jobs in the construction industry are in demand across several regions of the state, but particularly in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. The number of construction jobs in the Nashville area has risen by more than 5,000 positions since 2010.

“The building boom has created a shortage in construction related skilled labor; there is a need for plumbers, steamfitters, electricians, brick masons, just to name a few occupations.”

Can you talk about what the department is doing to advance higher paying skilled labor jobs? What are some of the most promising fields?

“As skilled laborers retire, the younger generation of this critical workforce is just not there to replace them. Welding, plumbing, electrical, HVAC; these are all industries we depend on and we need to find people who are willing to consider working in these fields.

“We’ve traveled the state looking at how private industry is finding solutions to the problem. Such as Lee Company’s, Lee Company University in Nashville, and a unique consortium of businesses in the Jackson area, spearheaded by Toyota and Jackson State Community College.

“In these examples business has taken the lead in educating their existing workforce by providing employees the opportunity to increase their skill sets through life-long learning. Participants earn certification and in some cases credit hours toward associates and even bachelor degrees.

“Additionally, by partnering with local high schools, these programs are bringing young people into these high skills training programs. These programs are successful models we’re introducing to businesses across the state.”

Can you tell me about outreach efforts for specific careers?

“Workforce development is what this department is all about, putting people to work. We have American Job Centers located across the state whose main focus is helping Tennesseans find jobs by making available a myriad of training and employment opportunities.

“The Department of Labor and Workforce Development also hosts the Jobs4TN.gov website. It is a one-stop shop for anyone looking for work opportunities. On any given month there are typically close to 100,000 jobs listed ranging from entry to executive level positions.”

What advice would you give to a young person beginning to plan for a promising career in 2016? How can they position themselves for success?

“First, young persons should educate themselves about career opportunities and what the education requirements for that career are. Doing so will introduce them to a broad array of jobs that touch on their interests and help them make an informed decision before embarking on a specific career path.

“They may be surprised to find that there are many occupations that appeal to them of which they are not even aware. Once an occupation is chosen begin to pursue it through post-secondary training and education.

“Whether it is a traditional university, a community college, one of the state’s technical colleges, or some other type of skilled trades training, education beyond high school will make a tremendous impact on the rest of their life.”

What advice would you give an older adult looking for a higher-paying career? What resources does the state have for them?

“There are around 550,000 adults in Tennessee who do not have a high school diploma. If an adult does not at least earn a high school equivalency diploma, they are greatly limiting their chance of success in the workforce. It has become a prerequisite for obtaining any good paying job.

“For this reason we have spent the last year upgrading the Tennessee’s Adult Program making it more efficient and effective by redirecting funding to classroom, on-line instruction and virtual classroom instruction. There are adult education classes in every county, and those classes can be challenging, a person will reap the rewards of their hard work for the rest of their lives.”

Are there certain up-and-coming career fields that could turn into jobs of the future?

“Statistics show there are several occupation groups that are starting to increase across the state. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers in the healthcare industry, people who work in logistics, mechatronics engineers and community health workers are a few of the emerging occupations identified in our research.”

Just about everyone wants a high paying, satisfying career. Can you think of a couple of things that hold people back from achieving career success?

“If a person can go to a job each day that is a high paying and satisfying career you’re ahead of the pack. Lack of time and education are probably the biggest obstacles holding people back from advancing in the workplace.

“Life is hectic and finding time to go back to school isn’t easy. If you can find the time the opportunities are there. The state is there to help with educational programs such as Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Reconnect program. The Governor’s goal, what he calls Drive to 55; is to see that 55 percent of Tennesseans to have a degree or certificate by 2025.”

“As pointed out, private industry is also creating opportunities. The goal is to change lives by helping adults further their education and get the degree or certificate that will put them in a position to get that job they’ve always dreamed about.”

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