The Work Ethic Diploma originated as part of the Tennessee Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP), a Tennessee initiative developed to ensure that the state is graduating skilled workers ready to take on the jobs offered by employers and industry. LEAP sought to create community-led partnerships which would align educational training and postsecondary credentials to meet the needs of regional industry employers; these partnerships were comprised of industry partners, postsecondary institutions, K-12 educators, and workforce development professionals.
The Work Ethic Diploma program was first adopted and implemented by school systems in three counties: Grainger, Hamblen, and Hawkins. High schools in these counties were the first to award the Work Ethic Diploma, as a workforce readiness credential, at the end of the 2015-16 school year. In 2014, TCAT Morristown received a LEAP grant for “Strengthening the Lakeway Links: Providing a Demand Driven Workforce Supply Chain”. Development of the Work Ethic Diploma was one of the key pieces of this grant; it was designed as a local response to communicate important work-related characteristics to students and to recognize those students who met these higher standards.
Additional schools were added to the Work Ethic Diploma program in 2016. As part of Tennessee’s LEAP 2.0, school systems in three additional counties (Cocke, Greene, and Sevier) joined in an extension/expansion of the original LEAP project.
Along with these pioneering systems, the Work Ethic Diploma has been adopted by other school systems in Northeast Tennessee. In total, high schools from 17 different school systems will award Work Ethic Diploma credentials in the 2017-2018 school year.
The initiative has received strong support from area industry. Currently forty employers recognize the Work Ethic Diploma and new industry partners are being added regularly. With industry support and robust participation in local school systems, the Work Ethic Diploma will help build a brighter economic future for all of Northeast Tennessee.