This summer, we’ve embarked on a road trip to find out how six cities are building equitable pathways to postsecondary and workforce success. On our second stop, we discover how Nashville, Tennessee is moving policy and practice to create equitable opportunities in postsecondary education and employment.
This post was co-authored by Dana D’Orazio and Audrey Hutchinson. This is the third post in a series on the NLC Summer Road Trip in partnership with LinkedIn, an initiative made possible with generous funding from The Kresge Foundation.
Welcome to Nashville! Home of hot chicken and the Goo Goo Cluster! Oh yes, and more music legends than you can count. Walking down the streets with bright neon lights dancing overhead, the sounds of Nashville’s old and new country crooners punctuate the buzzing of cars, and surround you with the vibrancy of the city. It’s truly an all-encompassing music, art and food experience.
But, it’s not all about the neon lights and the country songs blaring from the street corners. Our partners in Nashville – Metro Nashville-Davidson County, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and Nashville State Community College – bring that same vibrant energy to ensuring all residents have the opportunity to succeed in college and career. This exuberance was in full evidence during the second stop of the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Summer Road Trip in partnership with LinkedIn.
Based on the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) longstanding Building Equitable Pathways for Postsecondary and Workforce Success work with Nashville, NLC and the local team highlighted Nashville as a national model for building pathways to opportunity at the America Association of Community Colleges National State Directors summer meeting.
“NLC’s sharing Design Thinking, changed the game for us in our current work addressing equity. We had to start somewhere….NLC gave us a structure, a way to deal with the unforeseen obstacles and opportunities and a framework via the Road Map to have the conversations we are not but needed to be having,” said Laura Ward, director of the Middle Tennessee Reconnect Community, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “Sometimes in the work it’s like whack-a-mole, something unforeseen pops up, the NLC Road Map has helped us to deal with this and keep our work moving.”
Nashville’s work is part of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, a statewide campaign to increase overall college completion rates – whether earning a certificate or degree – to 55 percent by 2025. This statewide program includes Tennessee Promise, which offers two years of free community or technical college tuition for high school grads, and Tennessee Reconnect, which helps adults with some college credit complete a certificate or degree program tuition free at one of 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technologies.
To further support this work, starting in August 2018 all adults in Tennessee can attend a state community college tuition free. This is a big win for the state and bolsters the work happening in Nashville.
With this momentum, Nashville’s Building Equitable Pathways team is pushing forward with a focus on adult college completion. The city’s strategies include:
- Increasing capacity for advising adult learners;
- Building out career pathways for those residents in the most need of access to opportunity in the ; and
- Launching a new Hospitality and Management and Retail Management Certificate program at Nashville State Community College.
Nashville is on track to meet its goal of creating an education system that supports giving all community members regardless of race, income and other socioeconomic factors the opportunities that completing postsecondary education provides. Specifically the local team and its partners are working to:
- Place adults living in local Promise Zones on a path to educational success and viable employment. The initial goal is to increase the number of adults who live in Promise Zones 1 and 5 enrolled in postsecondary degree and credentialing programs by 25 percent;
- Build career pathways in partnership with businesses in the region and begin engaging students earlier in their path; and
- Implement programs to help adults in the Promise Zones access and complete postsecondary credential and degree programs in the healthcare and IT sectors.
LinkedIn’s data from the Economic Graph spurred a conversation around these career pathways and the various levels of skills required for success.
The YEF Institute also brought the NLC Rose Center’s Equitable Economic Development Fellowship Nashville team to the table as well. The Rose Center team will help the Building Equitable Pathways team identify city planning, zoning and other barriers residents’ face to accessing higher education and employment.
A big thank you to everyone in Nashville for sharing the early wins in their Building Equitable Pathways work, and their commitment to pushing forward until all residents have the same opportunities.
Next time you are in Nashville be sure to stock up on Goo Goo Clusters, and have some hot chicken and ‘nana puddin’ at Hattie B’s.
Jacksonville here we come!
Follow our travels at the City Speak Blog and on Twitter #EquityEdEmployment
About the authors:
Dana D’Orazio is the Program Manager for Postsecondary Education at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
Audrey M. Hutchinson is the Director of Education and Expanded Learning at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.