THEC seeks expansion of LEAP

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is asking lawmakers to expand a $10 million grant program that paired employers with colleges to develop academic programs tailored to the needs of local job markets, reports The Tennessean.

In a report released Wednesday, the commission said the Labor Education Alignment Program, which doled out the grant funding to 12 different coalitions late in 2014, had shown “major growth and success in just the first year of implementation.”

But the commission urged lawmakers to provide added funding and attention during the upcoming legislative session.

Many of the LEAP grants paid for mechatronics equipment that duplicates the robotic fixtures of a modern assembly line for students who want to go into that field. The commission found that thousands of students across 51 counties had been reached by the first wave of grant funding, including:

-1,591 high school students who took dual-enrollment college courses that were funded or enhanced by a grant.

-630 students who enrolled in community or technical college programs supported by grant-funded equipment and professors.

– 13,363 students who participated in extracurricular programming, including internships, clubs or training.

Officials have said the program was motivated by complaints from Tennessee manufacturers who couldn’t find workers with enough hands-on experience to fill high-tech factory jobs. THEC’s report said that funding a larger number of coalitions moving forward would help expand the program’s impact.

NOTE: The report is HERE.