Category Archives: jobs

Haslam to high school kids: Go to work in construction business

A year after he signed the enabling legislation into law, Gov. Bill Haslam joined construction industry leaders Wednesday in launching a marketing campaign called “Go Build Tennessee” to encourage high school students to consider careers in the building trades, reports Richard Locker.

Tennessee is the third state with a similar program, following Alabama, where it began in 2010, and Georgia, in 2012. It uses an array of media, public relations and outreach efforts targeting students as early as junior high to consider careers as boilermakers, carpenters, electricians, electric linemen, equipment operators, iron workers, masons, plumbers and pipe fitters, road builders, sheet metal workers, welders and other trades.

Haslam said that for every five skilled tradesmen about to retire, only one new worker is in the, education, training and apprenticeship pipeline to replace them. And he said the construction industry is expected to grow 22 percent over the next decade.

“For anybody who’s seen the growth happening in Nashville and across the state, the challenge for us is … across all the different aspects of construction,” the governor said. “What we hope this effort will do is help young people know, ‘Hey, that’s a great career opportunity for me and something I should think seriously about,’ because it’s a realistic career path that can provide a great occupation.”

State lawmakers in 2015 approved the “Go Build Tennessee Act,” creating a nonprofit corporation and board to run the program and diverting about $3 million in surplus contractor-licensing fees collected by the state into the program, over the next three years to pay for it. The bill was proposed and lobbied for by the Tennessee Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors of Tennessee, the Home Builders Association of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Road Builders Association.

Report says automation could replace half TN workforce

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A report released by the state of Tennessee suggests that up to 1.4 million people are at risk of losing their jobs to automation.

Citing a study by the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel ( ) reports that automation could replace nearly 50 percent of the state’s workforce.

The findings were published on the Tennessee Workforce Disruption Index last week. According to the report, automation would change the way the workplace is configured and would make new demands on educational facilities. The report stated that automation will not eliminate labor, but it is likely to reshape the distribution of jobs. It stated that new jobs will be created and people will shift toward existing jobs that require high-level skills.

Randy Boyd, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, said that a massive loss of jobs could be avoided by shifting educational resources and by training workers for new career opportunities. He said the people who are most at risk of losing jobs are those who don’t have post-secondary skills.

To address the issue, Boyd said that the department’s solution is its Drive to 55 initiative. He said the initiative can raise post-secondary educational attainment in the state from 37 percent of the population to about 55 percent and could generate $9.3 billion annually.

“So if we fail, it’s cataclysmic,” he said. “If we succeed, it’s glorious.”

The report also concluded that among 12 Southeast states, Tennessee is ninth-most vulnerable to future workforce disruption.

VW sticking with planned TN investment

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen is sticking with planned investments at its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee — including production of a new SUV there next year — despite the uncertainty caused by its emissions scandal.

Volkswagen said Thursday it is reviewing investment spending worldwide as it faces huge costs to deal with its scandal, in which it equipped some of its cars to evade U.S. diesel emissions tests. The company has set aside 6.7 billion euros ($7.5 billion) to pay for recalls, but analysts say the total costs will be much higher.

The company, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, said in a statement that it will invest $600 million in Tennessee and reiterated plans to build a new midsize SUV there starting from the end of 2016.

Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn said that “the clear commitment to the Chattanooga location confirms our engagement in North America and our confidence in the local team.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Volkswagen AG equipped 482,000 diesel engine models with software that disabled emissions controls when cars were not on test stands. Up to 11 million cars worldwide have the deceptive software.

Volkswagen has apologized, suspended several managers and hired a law firm to investigate. New CEO Matthias Mueller says the company is re-examining its corporate culture to make sure such wrongdoing does not happen again.

TN unemployment rate 5.7 percent in September

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State officials say Tennessee’s unemployment rate for September remained at 5.7 percent for the fourth consecutive month.

Tennessee Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips said Thursday that over the past year, the state’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.6 percent to 5.7 percent, while the national rate declined from 5.9 percent to 5.1 percent.

The number of unemployed individuals in Tennessee is the lowest since February 2008.

Total nonfarm employment increased by 1,900 jobs from August to September.

The largest increases occurred in state government, educational services and professional/business services.

Councilmen propose defying state law to raise minimum wage

Chattanooga City Councilman Moses Freeman and at least two colleagues plan to propose an increased minimum wage within the city despite a 2013 state law that declares municipalities cannot do so, reports the Times-Free Press.

“I think it’s time that we look into it. We are not getting any leadership at the state or federal levels,” Freeman said. “I think workers here who are at the federal minimum — that’s $7.25 an hour — that is not enough in today’s world to keep workers out of poverty.”

…(C)ouncil members Chris Anderson and Jerry Mitchell, who said at a nonvoting meeting they would sponsor the bill once it’s drafted, said they would challenge the 2013 law.

“I’m aware that the legislature passed a law that makes them think that they can restrict us from passing a minimum wage,” Anderson said. “Councilman Freeman has asked our attorney to find a way to do it, and I support him.”

Mitchell had similar sentiments.

“Some people in Nashville, some of whom we elected, feel municipalities shouldn’t have this power. But I’m willing to debate that with them publicly,” Mitchell said.

Not everyone on the council is a fan, however.

Councilman Larry Grohn said the market should determine wages in Chattanooga, not the government. An increase in the local minimum wage will ultimately mean fewer minimum-wage jobs for people who aren’t equipped to find higher-paying work, he said.

…The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have city-by-city wage statistics, but in 2014, the bureau reported Tennessee had the highest share of workers of any state paid at or below the minimum wage.

A total of 110,000 of the state’s 1.6 million workers, or 5.2 percent, were paid the minimum wage or less. Nationwide, 3.9 percent of all workers were paid the minimum wage or less in 2014, according to the bureau.

ECD says ‘low-cost labor’ in tune with ‘high quality jobs’

State economic development officials said Thursday there’s no conflict in their agency’s goal of recruiting “high quality jobs” to the state and its marketing of Tennessee as “low-cost labor force,” reports Richard Locker.

The agency’s assistant commissioner for communications and marketing, Clint Brewer, said Thursday that “selling the state’s low-cost labor force and recruiting high-quality jobs do not conflict. Tennessee enjoys the strategic advantage of having low-cost labor because it costs less to live here than it does in most states, (and) our debt per capita is low as are our taxes.

“The cost of labor is measured nationally by comparing labor costs between states. The quality of a job is measured at the local level in the context of a state’s cost of living and the average wage within a county. A high-quality job in New York or California will pay more than that same high quality job in Tennessee. Within the context of Tennessee’s costs of living, it is still a high-quality job,” he said.

The state is evaluating its placement of foreign representatives as contracts for existing offices either have just expired or will soon in Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada and China. The RFI seeks responses, by Sept. 21, for representatives in the U.K. and Western Europe, Korea, Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, China and Brazil.

A smell test for Haslam’s privatization plans

Gov. Bil Haslam’s plan for privatizing state parks and more state buildings is just the sort of deal that explains Donald Trump’s appeal to many Americans, opines columnist Frank Cagle.

Just how would a private company be able to operate state parks and other building maintenance cheaper than the state and still be able to make a profit? I think we all know the answer to that.

A company getting the contracts would likely hire immigrant workers to do the jobs, at slave wages and with no benefits. It is the only business plan that returns these bidders a profit and saves the state money. We are talking about people doing food service, janitors, landscapers and other maintenance jobs.

So the state parks and buildings would be maintained by Mexican or Somali immigrants while tax-paying Tennesseans will instead be on unemployment and TennCare? How does that save us money? When that state worker who has had the cushy job of cleaning the toilets is forced out, are they going to vote for Haslam fave Jeb Bush or Trump?

Don’t be surprised if we discover that the state privatization plan will be done by Jones Lang LaSalle… (which) has already has made millions on state contracts since Haslam took office.

…If the plan to outsource state labor comes to pass, it will not pass the smell test unless it is put through a strict bidding process and the contract requires every contractor employee be subjected to e-verify to determine legal status. The company should not allow its employees to be on TennCare, but make them full-time employees and provide them with health insurance as required by the Affordable Care Act.

Then let’s see how many companies want to operate at a profit while “saving” the state money.

Haslam promotes ‘low-cost labor’ to foreign investors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — While Republican Gov. Bill Haslam often states his goal of bringing “high-quality jobs” to Tennessee, a document produced by his administration suggests he may be less interested in making them high-paying positions.

The Commercial Appeal newspaper reports ( ) that the Haslam administration is touting the state internationally as a place with a “low-cost labor force” and “very low unionization rates.”

That description is part of a request for information posted on the state’s website on Monday for people and firms in Europe, Asia and South America interested in representing Tennessee’s economic development goals with foreign companies.

“Tennessee is proud to be a right-to-work state with a low-cost labor force and no personal income tax on wages,” according to the document. “Our state and local tax burdens are some of the lowest in the region. We have the lowest debt per capita in the region and very low unionization rates — factors which continue to make our state attractive for foreign direct investment.”

Clint Brewer, a spokesman for the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said the that the state’s “labor cost is low, in part, because our state’s cost of living is one of the lowest in the country, ranking 8th lowest among all 50 states.

“Tennessee’s overall cost of living is 9.5 percentage points below the national average, and housing costs are 21.1 percentage points below the national average,” Brewer said in an email. “This is a selling point for companies selecting Tennessee versus other states.”

Haslam has been a vocal critic of the United Auto Workers’ efforts to gain collective bargaining rights at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, arguing that it would hurt efforts to lure foreign companies to Tennessee.

Leaked documents last year showed that the Haslam administration tried to make the state share of a $300 million incentive package for Volkswagen to expand its plant contingent on labor talks “being concluded to the satisfaction” of the state. Haslam at the time declined to specify which scenarios would have satisfied the state.

The incentive deal struck later in the year to add production of a new SUV at the plant did not include the labor provisions.

UAW officials at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill have touted the union’s efforts in both restarting production at the factory after the Great Recession and for bringing jobs to Tennessee that would have otherwise gone to the automaker’s plants in Mexico.

And Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has made Tennessee’s anti-union stance a sales point for his state.

“We have an open-door policy and welcome companies no matter what their desires may be in terms of labor-management relationships,” Beshear said earlier this year. “We don’t try to dictate what that relationship should be. We think that’s up to the company and to the employees.”

Brewer, the economic development spokesman, said that the state’s stance on unions is a selling point abroad.

“Low-unionization rates in Tennessee are also attractive to companies even if they come from a heavily unionized country,” he said. “Our recruitment and that of other right-to-work states shows that to be true. ”

Further, from the cited CA story:

The RFI seeks responses for representatives in seven regions: the United Kingdom and Western Europe, Korea, Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, China and Brazil. It asks responders for details on the services they would provide, including how they would identify companies that might be recruited to Tennessee; how they would call on companies and sell the benefits of locating or expanding in Tennessee; how many leads they would approach in a month, a quarter and a year; how they would develop a priority customer or lead list, and how often they would expect ECD staffers to visit companies, trade shows and conferences in their regions.

Don’t bother trying to apply for a state job in the next six weeks

People seeking many rank-and-file state positions cannot apply for them because Tennessee has stopped taking applications and won’t resume until Aug. 26, reports The Tennessean.

The application site shutdown is blamed on system upgrades. The application shutdown affects every state agency, but doesn’t affect the application process for executive positions.

“We are currently not accepting applications at this time due to system updates. We will continue accepting applications on August 26, 2015,” reads a statement at the top of the application site.

That means, for the time being, hiring will grind to a halt, said Danielle Barnes, Department of Human Resources deputy commissioner.

“It will in effect stop it for a while,” Barnes said Wednesday afternoon.

Tennessee only accepts applications for state positions online. The portal for staff employee applications has been closed since at least Monday.

Although applications are only accepted online, other staff changes such as promotions or suspensions may require paperwork, Barnes said. The upgrade will move those staff changes to an electronic format and shouldn’t cost the state any additional money, she said.

“This new product will allow us to obviously be more effective and efficient, allow us to be paperless and allow us to really get those transactions approved a lot more quickly,” Barnes said.

TN unemployment rate 5.8% — lowest since 2008

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today the Tennessee preliminary unemployment rate for May was 5.8 percent, two-tenths of one percentage point lower than the April revised rate of 6.0 percent. The U.S. preliminary rate for May was 5.5 percent, one-tenth of one percentage point higher than the prior month.

Economic Summary

· Over the past year, Tennessee’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.5 percent to 5.8 percent while the national rate declined from 6.3 percent to 5.5 percent.

· The number of unemployed persons is the lowest since March 2008.

· Total nonfarm employment increased 10,000 jobs from April to May. The largest increases occurred in leisure/hospitality, education/health services, & trade/transportation/utilities.

· Over the year, nonfarm employment increased 53,800 jobs. The largest increases occurred in trade/transportation/utilities, leisure/hospitality, and education/health services.