Norris “LEAP” Law To Help Educate And Employ Tennesseans

Monday, February 18, 2013

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) has filed legislation creating an "innovative statewide initiative merging traditional college coursework with technical training to address the skilled labor shortage faced by Tennessee employers."

Senate Bill 1330 creates the Labor Education Alignment Program allowing students at Tennessee's technology centers and community colleges the opportunity to combine occupational training in a high-skill or high-technology industry with academic credit and to apply that experience toward a degree. 

"I've met with a number of industries in high-tech manufacturing ready to expand in Tennessee but for a lack of qualified employees, and I know of many Tennesseans who can't afford to attend school while sacrificing a paying job,” Senator Norris said.  “This promotes the best of both worlds for employers, employees and the economy of Tennessee."

The legislation is drafted so that wages or other compensation received by students will not impact eligibility for state need-based financial assistance or grants. 

Senator Norris and his staff consulted with employers in Tennessee and other southern states, as well as overseas, to study what are referred to as "cooperative education” programs. Students are paid to learn while applying what they learn at work for credit toward a degree. 

“This is not unlike the old apprentice programs of generations past, where students get a practical utilization of what they’re learning from the books,” Senator Norris said.  “But we’re adding a modern higher education component to address what Tennessee employers keep asking for:  job candidates with the requisite skills needed in today’s technologically-advanced workplace.”

Jason Bates, administration manager of Toyota’s Bodine facility in Jackson, stated that industry continually faces the need for qualified workers.

“Despite today’s challenging economic environment, manufacturing facilities all across our state struggle to fill positions with individuals educated in advanced manufacturing,” Mr. Bates said.  “Support for education in manufacturing technology is critical for Tennessee’s growth.”

The legislation specifically directs several state entities to work together in both establishing and carrying out the initiative. 

"Oftentimes, there is a communications gap between educators and economic developers. LEAP will help coordinate job training between the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Economic and Community Development with higher education,” Senator Norris said.  “This will allow us to educate and employ the skilled workers that prospective employers actually need right now."

Dr. Richard Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, agreed.

“This program recognizes that an important outcome of a student's education is job opportunity,” Dr. Rhoda said.  “Having employers work closely with state agencies creates increased collaboration and focus across the board, giving students the opportunity to attain credentials.”  

The bill is sponsored by House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) in the House of Representatives. 

Senator Norris represents the 32nd Senate District in Shelby and Tipton Counties.


Nuclear Regulatory Commission Awards Scholarship Funds To Chattanooga State

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has awarded $146,845 to fund scholarships for students in nuclear-related programs at Chattanooga State Community College. The donation made to the Chattanooga State’s Nuclear Scholarship Program will provide 32 scholarships to full-time students majoring in one of four nuclear-related programs of study in the Engineering ... (click for more)

New $1.1 Million Gift Establishes W. Max Finley Chair For Excellence In American Business At UTC

Continuing a legacy of support for UTC, a $1.1 million gift from the Finley family has created the W. Max Finley Chair for Excellence in American Business to honor the entrepreneurial energy and career of the late W. Max Finley, former chairman of the RockTenn Corporation.  The W. Max Finley Chair will employ or retain a distinguished faculty member for the UTC College of ... (click for more)

Signal Council, Residents Concerned About Unsafe Driving En Route To Schools

The town council of Signal Mountain is dealing with a traffic problem caused by increased traffic to and from Signal Mountain Middle High School and Nolan Elementary. Mayor Dick Gee said, “This is a tough issue that we wouldn’t have to deal with if everyone would drive responsibly.” The main concern is for safety and in November the council agreed to try to fix the problem by ... (click for more)

88-Year-Old Woman In Bradley County Severely Burned After Going Back In Burning House For Pets

Two people were injured in a house fire in Bradley County on Friday.   Shortly before noon, Bradley County EMS responded to a reported house fire on Hancock Road.   Two ambulances and a shift commander responded. Initial reports were that there were two people injured. When EMS crews arrived, Bradley County firefighters were performing resuscitative ... (click for more)

We Ought To Pay Our Own Way

The government is too big. It has never been bigger - by any measure. It spends more money than any other single actor in our society. From Blue Rhinos to providing telecommunications services, our government knows no bounds. We’ve gone from a free enterprise system to a public enterprise system.  I'm not an artist. I'm not terribly tech savvy. The part of government that ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Secret Train Ride

It was during Christmas of 2003 when Bennett Levin and his wife found themselves talking and worrying about the wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda, Md., and at the nearby Bethesda Naval Hospital. Their wish was that they could do something meaningful, something really grand, for the soldiers who had lost limbs, their eyesight, and far worse. As ... (click for more)