LEAP is a Tennessee initiative developed to ensure that the state is graduating skilled workers ready to take on the jobs offered by employers and industry. The program aims to close skills gaps by ensuring that students enrolled in courses provided by Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) and community colleges gain the necessary skills to meet the requirements of high-skill and high technology jobs demanded by industry leaders in the state. LEAP accomplishes this goal through grant funding to communities for the development of a framework for regional partnerships – comprised of postsecondary institutions, industry partners, workforce development professionals, and K-12 educators, particularly those associated with Career and Technical Education (CTE). Collectively, the stakeholders create tailored workforce pipelines designed to provide the requisite technical skills that meet local employers’ needs.

LEAP 1.0

In 2014, THEC awarded $10 million in state-funded LEAP grants to twelve local programs across the state in a first round of funding, known as LEAP 1.0. These community-led partnerships, comprised of industry partners, postsecondary institutions, K-12 educators, and workforce development professionals, were tasked with aligning educational training and postsecondary credentials to meet the needs of regional industry employers.

LEAP 2.0

In 2016, the State of Tennessee provided an additional $10 million in awards for the program. As a result, twelve additional grants were funded in September 2016 to serve 67 counties. Every LEAP program is required to focus on a specific set or sets of skills which students will learn. LEAP 2.0 included an emphasis on work-based learning components, such as co-ops, internships, and other experiential learning for students. LEAP 2.0 will provide students with development in the following in-demand skill areas: advanced manufacturing, automation, automotive diesel, electricity, healthcare, industrial maintenance, machine tool technology, mechatronics, soft skill development, and welding.

Strengthening the Lakeway Links

The “Strengthening the Lakeway Links: Providing a Demand Driven Workforce Supply Chain” (STLL) LEAP project is the product of a three-year dialogue between local partnerships of regional industry leaders, economic development leaders, TCAT Morristown, and K-12 districts. The STLL project aims to produce a clear vision for the specific skills gaps that need to be addressed throughout Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, and Sevier counties. STLL aims to strengthen technical skills in Industrial Electricity, Industrial Maintenance, Machine Tool Technology, as well as “soft skills,” including attendance, problem solving, math and reading skills, and the avoidance of substance abuse. STLL is addressing these challenges by providing dual enrollment courses in Industrial Electricity through TCAT Morristown to eight regional high school locations. STLL intends to leverage these dual credit opportunities to increase capacity at both institutions and bolster the supply of qualified workers in the region. In addition to these new dual credit programs, STLL has integrated ACT’s WorkKeys Jobs Skills Assessment and National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) program into high schools to assess the job readiness of LEAP students. Both WorkKeys and the NCRC have been developed by ACT to provide a comprehensive procedure to measure, communicate, and improve on the common skills required for success in the workplace. The NCRC assessment is utilized by industry to explore a job candidate’s ability to perform tasks such as reading for information, / mathematical reasoning, and locating information. The STLL project has also committed to tackle gaps in soft skills among students and employees. High school student seniors will have the opportunity to earn STLL’s Work Ethic Diploma, showcasing their commitment to punctuality, workplace behavior, and adherence to a drug-free work environment. Students who earn the diploma will graduate with distinction and be guaranteed an interview with partnered regional employers. In the Spring of 2016, 316 seniors earned the Work Ethic Diploma distinction and 465 seniors earned the distinction in 2017. The Work Ethic Diploma initiative will be expanding for the 2017-18 school year to include school districts in Carter, Hancock, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington Counties.

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