The effectiveness of the state’s $52 million job training program has been called into question after auditors found regional job training centers across the state were inflating their numbers to hit strict performance measures and keep their federal funding, reports the Tennessean.
Since the recession began in 2008, the state’s 13 local workforce training centers have been faced with a major challenge: Federal performance measures continue to rise, but high unemployment has led many dispirited workers to give up on job searches and leave their training programs voluntarily.
State auditors say the training centers — which provide training and other assistance to out-of-work adults, displaced workers and youths looking for jobs — responded to this challenge by padding their statistics.
According to an audit by the state comptroller released last month, the training centers failed to remove people who didn’t find jobs in a timely manner or continue their training. By doing so, the training centers, which are operated by either nonprofit groups or local government agencies, kept their statistics up and avoided the prospect of losing their federal funding.
.,,,The audit found that 29 percent of the randomly selected participants were not removed from the system. Some participants lingered in the program for as long as five years.
“Based on our inquiries, LWIAs (local workforce investment areas) kept participants who did not successfully complete the program in the (database) for years to show that these participants were still active in the program and thereby to avoid reporting those participants as unsuccessful exits from the program,” the audit stated.
“The program director at one LWIA told us that this has been the practice of LWIAs due to strict and unachievable performance measures.”
The audit did not specify which of the 13 training centers was engaged in the practice of manipulating its performance numbers. Brian Clark, executive director for the Nashville Career Advancement Center, which is the regional training program for Davidson, Rutherford, Wilson and Trousdale counties, said the training centers face a tough predicament.
The Nashville Career Advancement Center has regularly been achieving its own performance measures for job placement, retention and average annual salary, but Clark acknowledged the poor job climate has made its work more difficult. Clark said the challenge is to keep an out-of-work person engaged in the training program at a time when jobs are scarce.
The training program primarily focuses on low-earning, low-skilled workers. For instance, the 13 regional programs must help those they successfully place in jobs maintain cumulative average annual earnings of $13,700. Last year, 28,088 people used the state’s workforce development program.
In a story on Weston Wamp’s reliance on Zach Wamp in campaigning for the 3rd Congressional District seat, Chris Carroll reports that the father once helped his son seek work in Washington with Congressman Chuck Fleischmann.
Zach Wamp made the initial call to set up his son for an interview with Chip Saltsman, who at the time was Fleischmann’s campaign manager, according to Saltsman. The to,e was about a month after Zach Wamp had lost the August, 2010, Republican gubernatorial primary and Fleischmann had won the 3rd District Republican primary to replace Zach Wamp in Congress.
“He wanted me to give Weston a job interview,” Saltsman says. “I told him I would.”
Zach Wamp’s pattern of helping his son continues now that Weston Wamp is challenging Fleischmann for the 3rd District seat, from tapping his old donor network to knocking on voters’ doors.
Now Fleischmann’s chief of staff, Saltsman said Weston Wamp once viewed Fleisch-mann as a potential Capitol Hill employer, not part of “the status quo” he criticizes almost daily in his quest to win his father’s old office.
Two sources confirmed Saltsman’s account, but both Wamps challenged it.
…As Saltsman remembers the 2010 meeting at Fleischmann’s Chattanooga campaign headquarters, the younger Wamp didn’t bring a resume and asked to be Fleischmann’s press secretary.
“I went into it with an open mind — Weston is well spoken and certainly does not lack in confidence,” Saltsman said. “But his conversation was a lot more about him and his skill set as opposed to why he wanted to work for Chuck.”
Weston Wamp denied that, saying he visited Saltsman to offer Fleischmann help on social media and online outreach — duties normally handled by a congressional press secretary.
“There was nothing about a job,” Weston Wamp said.
Saltsman said he decided against hiring Weston Wamp, adding that he called Zach Wamp to deliver the news.
“Zach did not agree with that decision,” Saltsman said. “Obviously a father’s going to lobby hard for his son.”
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis today announced a new jobs database to help connect job seekers with Tennessee employers.
Jobs4TN Online is a virtual recruiter, automatically notifying job seekers when jobs they may qualify for are posted and notifying employers when candidates who fit their needs register.
The online database contains positions from job orders placed directly by Tennessee employers, from corporate Internet sites, and from major job search engines. Jobs4TN Online also identifies available green jobs.
“The unemployment rate for Tennessee is at its lowest since November 2008 and has fallen below the national rate, but it is still too high,” Haslam said. The governor committed to developing a new jobs database during his gubernatorial campaign. “With Jobs4TN Online, those without a job will have quicker and better access to job openings related to their skills, and as we work to make Tennessee an even better place to expand and start a business, we want to help employers find the employees they need.”
Jobs4TN Online makes available labor market information, including demand occupations, education requirements and salaries for positions, labor force projections, and training program graduates. Information can be tailored to focus on specific communities, metro statistical areas or statewide. Employers and job seekers are encouraged to log in to Jobs4TN Online at www.jobs4tn.gov.
“This system is much more than a traditional job search engine,” Davis said. “Jobs4TN Online offers extensive information for interviews, lists of local training providers, and the capability to create and send resumes.”
The state’s previous job search site, the Source, included job orders received by Tennessee Career Centers and jobs listed by Fortune 500 companies. Jobs4TN Online uses a more robust search that provides first-run jobs from newspapers, government sites and private job boards, and the amount of jobs listed in Tennessee has gone from 30,000 to more than 85,000.
Jobs4TN Online can be accessed anywhere with a computer and Internet access. Tennessee Career Centers across the state have free computer resource rooms with guidance on job searching. For anyone not comfortable with using a computer, referrals can be provided in person at the center once they have registered for services. To find the nearest Tennessee Career Center visit http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/cc/cccounty.shtml.
Also, Tennessee Career Coaches are another available resource. They are mobile career centers with computer workstations and access to the Internet anywhere by satellite. Three mobile units operate in east, west, and middle Tennessee to provide job searching resources to those attending job events or to those that don’t have access to the Internet. The Career Coaches’ schedules can be found at http://www.getonthecoach.tn.gov/.
About 1,000 state workers have been given the ax since Gov. Bill Haslam took office in January 2011, and only a few have so far been reassigned to new positions, according to a Tennessean review of state records.
The Haslam administration’s campaign pledge to squeeze savings out of state government and improve service has resulted in plans to cut payrolls within Tennessee’s 22 departments by more than 2,200 jobs. Many of those job cuts have been coupled with promises to help displaced workers find new positions elsewhere in state government.
But the state Department of Human Resources says it has tracked only 40 completed reassignments since Haslam took office, an indication that the governor’s plan remains unfinished. Haslam’s 16 months in office have shown him to be an eager proponent for reorganizing state government — or “rightsizing” as he has called it.
His plans, which are expected to continue through the next budget year, have affected obscure offices and major facilities. Haslam has bolstered those efforts with a new law that will make it easier for managers to hire, fire and promote workers, and a 123-page review that lays out more potential changes.
The Republican governor’s embrace of tighter management is part of a national trend toward smaller government based on private-sector principles. But in capital cities such as Nashville and in small communities where government facilities are major employers, cutting government payrolls may have been a drag on job growth and slowed the recovery from a deep recession.
The shrinkage of Tennessee state government began under Haslam’s Democratic predecessor, Phil Bredesen. An average of 1,200 positions a year have been cut in the past five state budgets, lowering the total payroll from nearly 50,000 workers in 2008 to just under 44,000 by the end of the upcoming fiscal year next summer.
But despite a warning from Bredesen that further cuts would begin to remove muscle, not fat, from state government, Haslam has not slowed the pace of its shrinkage.
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former state senator Rosalind Kurita has taken a new policy role at the state Department of Health and is drawing on her nursing background to help fight obesity in Tennessee.
Kurita, who once served as a Democratic state senator for Clarksville, told The Leaf-Chronicle (http://leafne.ws/yyD0Ya ) that she accepted the new position as health policy adviser with the state in December. Her salary is $6,500 a month, according to Health Department spokeswoman Shelley Walker.
“This is a wonderful job,” Kurita said. “This is such an opportunity to make a genuine difference in people’s lives.”
Kurita was ousted after state Democrats vacated her 19-vote win in a 2008 Democratic primary race after she aligned with Republicans to elect Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker in 2007.
She is already making changes within the department to encourage workplace fitness, including reopening a small exercise room and putting mile markers in the hallways to encourage employees to walk a few laps around the building.
“Those are all things that any workplace could do to provide help in preventing obesity,” she said.
Kurita, who was a nurse before she entered politics, said health and wellness issues have always been her focus as a public official. Commissioner John J. Dreyzehner said her experience in state government makes her an ideal leader in the fight against obesity.
“(Kurita) is doing great work by helping us lead health improvement within our own agency and thus walk the walk that we are encouraging others to take,” Dreyzehner said in a statement.
A prominent Democratic Party donor who says U.S. Sen. Bob Corker is trying to help former Gov. Phil Bredesen get a top job in the Obama administration has urged the White House to resist the senator’s pleas, reports the Tennessean.
Real estate mogul Bill Freeman wrote to White House chief of staff William Daley on Dec. 28, saying he had learned on a recent trip to Washington that Bredesen, a Democrat, had asked Corker, a Republican, “to make calls to the administration on his behalf.”
Freeman, co-founder of Freeman Webb Co., wrote that Bredesen was seeking a senior position in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where Bredesen was a candidate for the top job after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
“This is mind-boggling to me,” Freeman wrote in a letter obtained by The Tennessean, adding that a Bredesen appointment “would increase the odds that (Corker) would be able to retain his Senate seat in 2012.”
In an interview Monday, Freeman said he had heard about Corker’s calls from a White House official — whom he declined to name — at a holiday party there last month.
But Corker and Bredesen, 68, said they’ve never talked about the senator making any calls to the Democratic administration on Bredesen’s behalf. When asked whether he had made any calls of his own initiative, Corker laughed, replied, “I’ll see you later, good luck,” and signed off.
…”I am emphatically not seeking any jobs in Health and Human Services or anywhere else up there. I’m quite happy doing what I’m doing,” the former health-care executive (Bredesen) said, citing business interests and speeches he has been giving on health care across the country.
A new analysis of federal data shows not many states lost more jobs in the last five years than Tennessee, reports the Memphis Business Journal.
According to On Numbers, a Memphis Business Journal affiliate, Tennessee has lost 170,600 jobs since 2006, the 42nd worst state performance. Texas was the big winner in On Numbers’ midyear analysis of employment trends, adding 537,500 non-farm jobs between June 2006 and June 2011, based on the latest seasonally adjusted figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Louisiana saw the second-biggest increase by any state during the five years, gaining 55,900 non-farm jobs. North Dakota was third with a raw increase of 41,700. On Numbers used BLS data to calculate raw and percentage changes in employment between the midpoints of 2006 and 2011.
News release from Department of Economic and Community Development:
NASHVILLE — Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty today named veteran journalist Clint Brewer as Assistant Commissioner, Communications and Creative Services.
“I’m pleased to have someone with Clint Brewer’s depth of experience joining our economic development leadership team,” said Commissioner Hagerty. “As a former business owner and media executive, Clint Brewer will effectively lead our department’s communications and marketing efforts.”
“I’m grateful to Governor Haslam and Commissioner Hagerty for this opportunity,” said Brewer. “Tennessee is one of the very best places in this country to do business, and I am excited to help spread that message.”
Brewer comes to ECD with more than 15 years experience in the Tennessee media as an award-winning reporter, editor and publisher. He was previously at The Tennessean in Nashville as the newspaper’s political editor. He has also previously served as editor of the daily Lebanon Democrat and of Nashville’s City Paper. Brewer started his own company in 2000 where he owned the Mt. Juliet News, a weekly newspaper in Wilson County.
Prior to his tenure at the Tennessean, Brewer was executive director of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a non-profit, free market think tank.
Brewer is a native of Knoxville, TN and a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He was national president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2007-08, where he led a lobbying effort in the U.S. House and Senate to see a national reporter shield law passed. He is a former board member of the Tennessee Press Association, and served as the co-chair of TPA’s Government Affairs committee during the last legislative session.
In his current role, Brewer will lead all communications and marketing efforts for ECD, including oversight of the department’s press and creative services teams. ECD’s Communications and Creative Services division keeps staff, legislators, other state and city departments, local agencies, the media and the general public informed of ECD services, programs and activities. The division also provides strategic communications planning for the department and the coordination and execution of all ECD public events.
Freshman state Rep. Julia Hurley has accepted a customer service job with the Lenoir City Utilities Board, reports the News Sentinel.
Hurley, a Republican whose 32nd District includes Lenoir City and Roane County, will work part time in the customer service department, according to Shannon Littleton, LCUB general manager. Hurley will work at different locations, including the LCUB offices in Lenoir City and Farragut, he said. The position pays about $8 per hour.
Hurley, who pointed out that state representatives only receive about $19,500 per year, said she has to work just like her constituents.
“I don’t plan on being a career politician,” she said.
Voters handed the House seat to Hurley over nine-term Democrat incumbent Dennis Ferguson.
Hurley said she plans to try to learn on the job at LCUB and expects to get to meet more people in her district.
“It’s a good way to learn about the utility industry, which is very important to my district and the state,” she said.
Hurley is founder and owner of JayCy Co. which operates http://www.SECGrillToppers.com, an online store that features collegiately licensed sports apparel and tailgate party needs.
During the campaign last year, critics tried to make an issue of Hurley’s experience working at Hooters, a restaurant known for its attractive female servers. She told voters that she was proud to have worked her way through Maryville College as a Hooters server in Alcoa.