Local & National News | August 24, 2023
Discover the untold story of workforce development in the Memphis Mayoral race and why it's crucial for the city's future in our eye-opening article.

This is a #JustMyOpinion feature from the community and written by Joe B Kent!

What about the workforce development conversation in this Memphis Mayoral race? Seems no one in the press wants to drill down on workforce. Mayor Lee Harris doesn’t, and the County Commission’s Workforce committee never meets. The former occurs, as many in local government, talk about building structures but not people through connected workforce development.

Sadly, as local government sends money out the door for “workforce development”, local government has failed to establish a common language to facilitate productive workforce development conversations. Consequently, professional conversations between diverse stakeholders, don’t happen and connected implementation never happens.

Local conversations on workforce are usually elementary like “I am for Literacy”, while discussing “partnerships”, “collaboration” and “planning” away from execution and implementation.

Sustaining the workforce conversation has always demanded strong local government leadership. But for whatever reason, in Memphis, leadership of the workforce conversation is always surrendered to the failed public private complex in Memphis Tomorrow, Chamber, EDGE or Seeding Success. In this way, connected implementation never happens.

The workforce development system has been disconnected and botched for nearly 10 yrs. Here is a brief history:

Drilling down on workforce might be what voters want to hear more about. After all, the press has beat the crime issue like a dead horse in recent debates, with workforce development being one of the more frequently touted cures for out-of-control crime. At the same time, some concerning realities regarding workforce, will challenge the next Mayor:

Why is no one talking about the currently challenged Southwest Community College? This is not the case in other cities throughout the country, who moved in recent years, to bolster community college education, based on economic and employer demand. It was determined elsewhere, outside of Memphis, that 4 yr. degrees for all had been an unfortunate and expensive misplaced goal for years.

Without question, tackling workforce development is key to both improving public safety and economic development outcomes. After all, many say workforce development is economic development. To quantify the former statement, had Shelby County had the employment growth of Knox County of 14.5% since 2010, $13B more in wages and $390M more in local tax revenue would have been generated in Shelby County.

Needless to say, workforce will be a major challenge for the next Memphis Mayor. So why not expand the conversation on workforce development in this mayoral debate season?

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