Training and Workforce Development | Joey Hatch Tennessee Board of Regents | Propel Change
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Training and Workforce Development | Joey Hatch Tennessee Board of Regents

Training and Workforce Development | Joey Hatch Tennessee Board of Regents

In today’s video, I speak with Joey Hatch, the Executive Vice President of Skanska USA, and member of the Board of Regents in Tennessee.

DONNA: So Joey, when we think about college, a lot of times we think automatically four-year degree, master’s degree, maybe a doctorate. Talk to me a little about, on the Board of Regents and in the state of Tennessee in general, what kinds of things are you all doing to change that type of mindset, because not everybody wants to go to four-year college?

JOEY: Well, we’re doing a lot in the state of Tennessee, and I want to give a shout-out both to our governor and our legislature because they have been driving that for several years.

DONNA: Fantastic.

JOEY: And the thought of actually going and getting training after high school, the post-secondary attainment, so what that really is getting trained for a really cool job, a really cool profession, or going onto a four-year school later. But it won’t include a lot of student debt. It won’t include potentially a meaningless degree that you can’t get employed for, so it’s focused. Let’s get specific training for a specific job. So there are a lot of cool opportunities out there, and I know this because I started my higher education career at a community college. In fact, Nashville State Community College here in town. So I was on the brink of not being able to go to college. This was in 1973. We didn’t have the financial means. I really wanted to go to school and become an engineer or a contractor. I had that bug. And it just wasn’t there. I discovered Nashville State Community College. The tuition was really inexpensive. I got a paid internship with a construction company.


JOEY: I went there for two years. I then got offered by my employer an opportunity to go to Auburn University and finish my four-year degree in construction. War Eagle to all of you Auburn fans.

DONNA: Auburn University.

JOEY: So what I’ll tell you is that whole experience changed the trajectory of my entire life. So today that I’m on the Tennessee Board of Regents, the oversight group for all of the community and technical colleges in Tennessee, is overwhelming for me. I’m passionate about it. I’m having a great time. We’re doing really good work. Because of what the governor and legislature has set us up for initially with the Tennessee Promise, that is about getting our citizens and our state ready for employment opportunities that are coming this way, companies relocating into our state. We’ve got to train people for different careers. So the goal in 2025 is to have 55% of our citizens to have significant training to do these jobs.

DONNA: Fabulous. What is the percentage now, do you know?

JOEY: The percentage today is 39%, so we’re gaining on it. But we got a long way to go. So the Tennessee Promise allows high school kids to go to technical or community colleges tuition-free for up to two years. You can come out of those programs with a really good job, everything from cosmetology, to welding, to dental assisting to engineering, to electrician, to maintenance, a lot of really cool jobs. These are living-wage jobs. These are jobs–

DONNA: That I can start making money the next day.

JOEY: You can make 40, 50, $60,000 a year with some of these jobs. If you want to go on and get a four-year degree, you can also transfer that entire credit that you’ve taken into the four-year schools in Tennessee. But it’s about a focused approach to education instead of just going off to a four-year school because everybody thinks that’s the thing to do, getting some degree, you can’t get employed, you have student debt. So we’re trying to focus around that. We have 13 community colleges in the state. We have 27 technical colleges.


JOEY: We have 148 campus settings. So in Tennessee, in the 90-something counties that are in Tennessee, you’re no further than 30 minutes by car to any one of those campuses. So we’ve gotten into the rural settings. The kids and the adult learners can go to school there. That’s really tremendous for our state.

DONNA: Are these places bursting at the seams because I can go, I can get my degree or my certificate, immediately start making money?

JOEY: Well enrollment is up, but I will tell you, because the economy is so hot in Tennessee, enrollment generally flattens out during those high economic demand times because people can work. When the economy slows down, people tend to go back and get additional training. So we got both things happening. What we do have coming in August is the Reconnect Act. So that allows adult learners that have some college or training or no college and training but no degree to go back to college, again for two years, tuition-free. So we have 118,000 students state-wide already. We’ve had 13,000 students sign up, or adult learners. So the expectation is we’re gonna grow by more than 10% when the doors open back up in the fall. So that’s a terrific problem to have. And at the Tennessee Board of Regents, we have a simple mission statement. It’s only five words. Student success and workforce development. So we’re focused on the student. They’re in the schools, tuition-free. We’re gonna help them get through, graduate, and get these cool jobs, and that workforce development combined with what our state activities are to bring companies in as relocations, and you read all about this once a week. Some companies relocate to middle Tennessee, or West Tennessee. They’re gonna bring 500 jobs. We have to have those jobs ready.

DONNA: Right.

JOEY: That’s a bigger deal today than incentives. They want to know where is the workforce gonna be if I bring these jobs. So we’ve gotta get these folks trained.

DONNA: Where is Tennessee with the rest of the country, in terms of these innovative approaches and how we’re really moving forward with education?

JOEY: Well, unfortunately, for the longest time, if you looked at any statistic on higher education, Tennessee was in the bottom five. We were 45th to 48th, 49th. In the last few years because of our approach to higher education, we now lead the nation–

DONNA: Oh, wow.

JOEY: We lead the nation in the number of high school students that are filling out the FAFSA, which is the federal forms to get into college. We lead the nation in community college enrollment percentage. We lead the nation in graduating our first cohort of Tennessee Promise students. So we’re moving up. I think today we’re probably in the mid 20s in overall higher education.

DONNA: Which is fabulous.

JOEY: But we’ve really moved up in that, and I’d like to think one day we’re going to get to the top five or 10. I think that’s the track we’re on.

DONNA: That’s great.

JOEY: And the mindset of the politicians, the industry, the Board of Regents, all the people that play a role in that, is that we’re going to focus all of our activities and energy on the students because if they’re successful, and we get them graduated, and they get the jobs, then the state’s going to be successful.

DONNA: So, Joey, thanks so much for sharing this information with us today. I am amazed at what Tennessee is doing and what Tennessee has done, and I’m so proud to be a part of this state.

JOEY: Well thank you, and it’s a passionate and important topic for me. I’m really enjoying my role on the Tennessee Board of Regents, and I love talking about it.

DONNA: Go Tigers.

JOEY: Thank you.

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