Tennessee Education Commissioner Schwinn Talks COVID Response, Workforce Development; Congressman Roe Named Corridor Champion in Final TVC Virtual Summit Session

NASHVILLE, TN — Yesterday, hundreds of government, industry, and education professionals from across the Tennessee Valley Corridor attended the fifth and final session of the TVC Virtual Summit Series. The focus of this week’s session was “Meeting the TVC’s Workforce Challenges,” highlighting the barriers facing businesses and federal partners and strategies being used to overcome these workforce obstacles.

In her keynote address, Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn outlined the state’s efforts to continue teaching and learning – both in classrooms and virtually – amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Schwinn then joined a panel discussion on workforce development strategies throughout the Tennessee Valley Corridor.

Discussing Tennessee’s partnership with Battelle (co-manager of Oak Ridge National Laboratory with the University of Tennessee), Commissioner Schwinn highlighted the importance of industry partnerships in growing industry skills and interest at an earlier age. “These kinds of partnerships provide teachers with really strong ideas of how to do instruction and provide students with the lightbulb and the energy to want to rethink themselves as students and as innovators. Having these activities and partnerships ingrained in our work is one of the most important things we can do.” 

Mark Cox, Senior Vice President at Eastman Chemical Company, led the discussion on workforce development and the link between K-12 and postsecondary institutions and industry. Audience members participated by asking the panelists questions on apprenticeships and internships, developing future innovators, filling experience gaps left by retiring baby boomers, the impact of COVID-19 on workforce development and much more.

Panelists included: Commissioner Schwinn; Dr. Stacey Patterson, Vice President of Research, Outreach and Economic Development at the University of Tennessee; Lottie Ryans, Director of Workforce & Literacy Initiatives at First Tennessee Development District; Heath McMillian, Executive Director of Economic and Workforce Development at Northeast State Community College and Director of the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM); and Tanya Foreman, Education Manager at Eastman Chemical Company. 

During Thursday’s final summit session, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann presented Congressman Phil Roe the 2020 Corridor Champion Award. The Corridor Champion Award is the Tennessee Valley Corridor’s highest honor, given to those who have made significant contributions to the TVC’s mission and goals. During his tenure serving the first congressional district of Tennessee, Congressman Roe has worked tirelessly to support the mission of the TVC and its members and was a founding member and co-chair of the TVC Congressional Caucus.

Closing out the session, University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd and UT Knoxville Chancellor Dr. Donde Plowman announced plans for the 2021 TVC National Summit to be held on campus at UT Knoxville next year.

The session was sponsored by Eastman Chemical Company and co-sponsored by Morning Pointe Senior Living. View the full final session of the TVC Virtual Summit Series on the TVC YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C1kRNbstSM.

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