Tennessee is experiencing a significant increase in job opportunities, yet too few of our students are receiving the education and training needed to enter the workforce, access these jobs, and succeed in their careers.

To ensure all students are prepared for success in the workforce and can achieve economic independence, it is essential that we make data-driven decisions that ensure our students’ educational experiences prepare them for the jobs that will be available to them in the future. We’ve done a lot as a state, and we can do more, particularly when it comes to using data to support students along the education-to-work pathway.

Think about how powerful it could be if we had publicly available, easily accessible information that showed how well our Tennessee education programs are preparing students for jobs in our state. For example:

  • What if we knew how well high schools in each district are preparing students for college or jobs in their regions? 
  • What if we knew which higher education programs led to the highest job placement rates and job retention in a particular industry five years later? 
  • What if employers considering starting or growing a business in a region of our state could look at data to assess our talent pipeline in that unique region? 

As a state, we have the ability to answer these questions because of important investments made in our state data system over the last few years. But to make sure these questions are answered and publicly available, we have more work to do. Tennessee’s existing data system shows promise and good intent. But according to the George W. Bush Institute’s review of state data systems, we need stronger governance and a coordinated statewide vision to address the gaps between education programs and workforce needs.

We are pleased that legislative leaders are seeking to close these gaps and ensure Tennessee students are ready for tomorrow’s workforce. Senate Bill 461/House Bill 902 aims to establish an Education And Workforce Data Advisory Committee that would set a vision for data use across the state. This committee, made up of commissioners of education and workforce-focused agencies, would be accountable to policymakers and the public to ensure data is used to best serve Tennessee’s education and workforce needs while also ensuring our state’s data is protected and secure. This legislation would also direct the creation of public-facing dashboards to provide timely and useful insights for educators, employers, and communities to plan for the future of work and education in Tennessee.

Students and families need information to understand education pathways and options. Having better access to data on education and workforce trends can be a game-changer for students when making informed decisions about their futures — from choosing the right career/technical education class in high school to picking a postsecondary program at a community college. Students should be able to understand the skills and qualifications needed for careers they are interested in pursuing, identify job market needs for specific industries and occupations, and connect that information to the specific set of educational options in front of them. 

From K-12 to postsecondary education, data can empower stakeholders to make better decisions for students. K-12 schools can prioritize high-quality programs that promote economic mobility, and higher education institutions can ensure their programs are preparing students for their desired careers. We have an opportunity to make the right data available to a wider range of Tennesseans, strengthening our efforts to prepare students for the future of work.  

SCORE is committed to improving student outcomes in Tennessee by promoting data-driven policy solutions so that every Tennessee student can succeed in a career and achieve economic independence. And we’re excited that policymakers are taking action to ensure our state has better access to information that can inform decisions by policymakers, educators, students, families, and employers.

David Mansouri is SCORE’s president and CEO.