McQueen announces task force to examine workforce preparation in schools

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has announced the formation of a Career Forward Task Force, a group of mostly education leaders who will examine ways to ensure that Tennessee students exit high school ready for or moving toward the workforce.

Candice McQueen

“Many students are still not adequately prepared to take advantage of opportunities after high school graduation,” McQueen said Tuesday in a news release. “This group of leaders will bring diverse perspectives as we discuss concrete ways we can strengthen the integration of postsecondary and workforce readiness throughout K-12 education, ultimately preparing our students to meet the demands of the real world.”

McQueen has spoken passionately about Tennessee students who are mired in poverty and low-wage jobs, even after receiving a high school diploma. Students who entered Tennessee high schools in 2008 and went straight into the workforce after high school make less than $10,000 a year on average, McQueen has said.

The 28-member task force is comprised primarily of education leaders and government officials, as well as a Nashville student, a Knoxville parent, and a handful of business leaders. It builds on the state’s efforts to ensure students are “career and college-ready,” the basis of the bulk of Tennessee education reforms in the past decade, including new academic standards and the Tennessee Promise scholarship program, which allows most high school students to attend community college for free.

The new task force will convene for the first time on Thursday and will meet monthly throughout the spring and summer to craft recommendations to strengthen the connection between K-12 and postsecondary education and the workforce. They will work to define career readiness and the milestones necessary to prepare a student.

Task force members are:

  • Burns Phillips, commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development
  • Mike Krause, executive director, Tennessee Promise and Drive to 55
  • Sara Heyburn, executive director, Tennessee State Board of Education
  • Russ Deaton, interim executive director, Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • Ted Townsend, chief of staff, Department of Economic and Community Development
  • James King, vice chancellor, Tennessee Board of Regents
  • Tristan Denley, vice chancellor, Tennessee Board of Regents
  • Eddie Pruett, director, Gibson County Special Schools
  • Jerry Boyd, director, Putnam County Schools
  • John Faulconer, principal, Knox County Schools
  • Arlette Robinson, career and technical education director, Bradley County Schools
  • Susan Farris, career and technical education director, Lauderdale County Schools
  • Stacey Kizer, information technology teacher, Williamson County Schools
  • Celeste Carruthers, assistant professor, Department of Economics, University of Tennessee
  • Harry Brooks, chairman, House Education Committee, Tennessee General Assembly
  • John Forgety, chairman, House Education Committee, Tennessee General Assembly
  • Jeff Frazier, principal and dean, Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, Eastman Chemical
  • Cal Wray, executive director, Clarksville-Montgomery County Economic Development Council
  • Suzanne Payne, director of corporate social responsibility, Unum
  • Tony Cates, human resources manager, Gestamp
  • Coral Getino, parent, Knox County Schools
  • Kristina McClure, parent, Hamilton County Schools
  • Catherine English, student, Metro Nashville Public Schools and Vanderbilt University
  • Debbie Shedden, Tennessee School Board Association President, Hawkins County School Board
  • Kristen McGraner, executive director, STEM Prep Academy, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Missy Blissard, school counselor, Rutherford County Schools
  • Jade Grieve, senior director, America Achieves
  • Becca Leech, special education teacher, Warren County Schools
  • Mark Norris, Senate Majority Leader