Nearly three years ago, Governor Bill Haslam launched the Drive to 55, Tennessee’s initiative to increase the number of residents with a college degree to 55 percent by 2025. Since that time, our state has launched an array of initiatives, ranging from the nationally recognized Tennessee Promise to several initiatives targeting adult students via the Tennessee Reconnect initiative. To reach the Drive to 55 goal, we will need to effectively deploy all of these programs and, ultimately, provide a path into college for every Tennessean. Reaching adults, whether they have some college or no degree or have never enrolled in higher education, is essential to the Drive to 55 and to building a well-trained workforce.
Emerging efforts across the country make clear the most effective pathway to reach adults is often through their employer. Whether it is through tangible support, such as tuition assistance, or by simply creating a company culture that values higher education, adults are more likely to enroll in college if their employer is engaged and supportive. Employers, of course, garner significant benefits from an educated workforce, including higher productivity and retention numbers.
This Employer Toolkit seeks to provide a foundation for you to engage with your employees. All organizations will be at slightly different places on the college access continuum, and we hope this toolkit provides ample resources to evaluate your own company culture and determine what steps may be most impactful. Thank you for willingness to engage in this important conversation, and for your support of the Drive to 55.
Executive Director, Tennessee Higher Education Commission
SOUTHWEST TN RECONNECT AND THE EMPLOYER TOOLKIT
As we progress in our goal of increasing post secondary adult attainment for working adults in our region, the Southwest Tennessee Reconnect Community (SWTRC) and our partners in the Drive to 55 are committed to providing employers support in the implementation of this toolkit.
Part of the effort to measure progress in implementing best practices will be the use of the Employer Report Card.
Companies will use the report card to self-audit their ability to help employees pursue post-secondary education opportunities. The guide is designed to support employers as they implement programs in the workplace that support adult learners and create pathways for them to earn a degree or certificate. Some programs require a financial commitment from the organization, while others require innovative thinking and flexibility from leadership within the organization.
As the SWTRC expands its reach in the region, we will expand the toolkit, provide employers with additional resources, and also conduct research and provide results on educational outcomes, best practices and assessments designed to measure educational attainment, employee satisfaction with programs in the workplace, and information about other employers in the region who are supporting their employees in their educational attainment journey.
SOUTHWEST TENNESSEE RECONNECT ADVISORS
A Reconnect Advisor is available to our nine county service area to assist employees in becoming Reconnectors.
Reconnectors are adult learners who have some college, but no degree, or who are entering college for the first time, who want to return to school to complete their education.
Our Advisor is housed at the Jackson Chamber and has special training in working with adult learners. Reconnect Advisors can provide the tools and the guidance necessary to connect your employees with a program that is right for them, while maximizing their prior coursework and work experience to create a pathway to graduation. Advisors are available to visit your workplace, set up a Mobile Reconnect Roundtable in an area where employees gather and provide information about SWTRC and services available to assist them in their return to school.