STEP-UP CHATTANOOGA : A CASE STUDY IN INNOVATIVE PARTNERSHIPS
Located in Chattanooga , the Public Education Foundation ( PEF ) has worked with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce , Benwood Foundation , and the Hamilton County Department of Education to address the findings of a local economic scan highlighting the current disconnect between the labor supply and needs of Hamilton County business and industry . PEF launched STEP- UP Chattanooga , a work-based learning program that connects economically disadvantaged students with businesses , nonprofits , and government agencies . Modeled on the STEP-UP Achieve program in Minneapolis , Minnesota , STEP-UP Chattanooga helped 76 students attain internships at 43 top Chattanooga companies in 2016 . Students gain on-the-job experience and professional skill-building , meet professionals who can help support their career and postsecondary goals , and are compensated for their work . This model demonstrates the leadership from Tennessee communities and businesses critical to increasing student success beyond high school .
In 2016 , Tennessee secured a $ 100,000 New Skills for Youth grant . Part of a five-year initiative developed by JPMorgan Chase , the Council of Chief State School Officers , and Advance CTE , New Skills for Youth aims to increase economic opportunity for young people by strengthening careerfocused education , starting in high school . 57 These funds enabled Pathways Tennessee to analyze the strengths and needs of regions across Tennessee to inform the development of partnerships at the local level and intentionally direct resources . Pathways regions use these data to create unified plans to narrow persistent gaps between skills students acquire in school and skills they will need to be competitive in the workforce .
Two key barriers challenge collaborative student readiness efforts : limited employer awareness of opportunities to engage and weak community buy-in to expand strategies that get results . Work-based learning ( WBL ), for example , helps bridge the gap between high school and high-demand , highskill careers , but these programs still only serve a fraction of Tennessee students . 58 Common misperceptions among business leaders , educators , students , and families about the purpose of WBL , its potential impact on student learning , and ease of employer participation are major challenges to program expansion . In 2016 , the Tennessee Business Roundtable and TDOE , along with other agencies , business , and nonprofit groups , convened to discuss strategies to overcome barriers to expand WBL . During Tennessee ’ s first Work-Based Learning Summit , business and education stakeholders gained a better understanding of how WBL can alter life courses for students , particularly historically underserved students , and the benefits of business partnerships for both talent development and community building .