Executive Excellence: Governor Bill Lee’s Vision for the Workforce of the Future

Growing up on a family farm, Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee was encouraged by his father to develop skills that would give him as many options as possible to earn a living. Years later, Gov. Lee is paying this good advice forward with vocational education and training that provide multiple pathways to work for young Tennesseans.

“We need to give kids options,” Gov. Lee explains in a video released by the Foundation for Government Accountability. “When we can equip people with skills, they’re more likely to land those first jobs.”

Gov. Lee was elected in 2018 and hit the ground running with multiple pro-work initiatives. In the first year of his first term, he expanded work-based training for students with the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE), which empowers K-12 schools, community colleges, and businesses to coordinate together to close the skills gap in local workforce pools.

The program includes several vocational, technical, and agricultural courses to prepare children and young adults for future success in the workforce. “We’ve lost a focus on that need for skilled training for the jobs of the future,” Gov. Lee explains.

To meet the growing demands of the digital economy, Gov. Lee announced the Future Workforce Initiative to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training in K-12 public schools. The proposal is expected to triple the number of STEM-designated public schools in Tennessee by 2022.

Gov. Lee knows vocational training programs work because he implemented similar programs in his family-owned home services company. The Lee Company offers a trade school for employees to earn a lifetime accredited journeyman’s license, and an internationally-recognized professional certificate in their chosen trade—all after-hours and at no charge to the student.

Under the leadership of Gov. Lee, Tennessee is creating a pro-work model for the rest of the nation to follow, putting people on the path to prosperity and allowing them to create their American Dream.