FAQ With the Northwest TN Workforce Board

The Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board (NWTNWB), designated by local elected officials, is charged with administering workforce development services in nine counties in Northwest Tennessee: Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion, and Weakley. The majority of the members of the NWTNWB are private business leaders from throughout the nine county service region and include business owners, chief executives, operating officers, and other executives with optimum policymaking and hiring authority. Representatives from Labor Organizations, Education & Training, Government, and Economic & Community Development, and other community organizations also serve on the board. Jennifer Bane serves as the Executive Director for the NWTNWB. The NWTNWB is established in accordance with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA).

The purpose of the NWTNWB is to provide policy guidance and exercise oversight with respect to activities under the WIOA in partnership with the units of local government for the local area.  The NWTNWB supports WIOA activities that develop a quality workforce system to meet the needs of area employers and job seekers, so that Northwest Tennessee is an area where business and industry thrive based on the availability of a skilled workforce and a robust talent pipeline, and where increasing wealth fuels prosperous communities and a high quality of life.  The NWTNWB, with the agreement of the chief elected officials for the local area, designate a one-stop operator and provider(s) of Career, Business, and Youth services for the local One-Stop Delivery System, operated through the American Job Centers (AJCs), where job seekers and employers connect. 

In addition to historically high unemployment rates compared to other regions in the State, Northwest TN serves a population with multiple barriers to employment, such as low postsecondary educational attainment, low income and underemployed individuals, recipients of public assistance, ex-offenders, single parents, individuals with transportation and substance abuse issues, and those lacking necessary soft skills and work ethic.  Per the Governor’s Rural Task Force Report the Northwest TN region has one county classified as distressed – Lake, and an additional five counties classified as at-risk – Obion, Weakley, Gibson, Carroll, and Benton. These classifications, made using the Appalachian Regional Commission’s standard based on comparisons of a county’s poverty rate, three-year average unemployment rate, and per capita market income to national average, indicate that a county ranks either in the bottom 10% of the nation as a distressed county, or between the bottom 10% and 25% as an at-risk county. 

Eliminating the barriers to employment, particularly those created by poverty, requires addressing numerous factors such as transportation, childcare, healthcare, education, and work ethic.  Given the large percentage of the population of Northwest TN living in poverty, it is critical for the workforce system to address these barriers in order to not only assist individuals in becoming self-sufficient, but also to ensure the employment needs of employers in the region are met.  With the implementation of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) on July 1, 2015, Northwest TN has already seen a significant increase in targeted populations, including individuals with barriers to employment, being served in the American Job Centers.

The NWTNWB must be ever mindful of employment trends in the local area and the region. Leadership in the area works with local education providers including TN Colleges of Applied Technology, communitycolleges, universities, and private providers, economic developers, and key employers in those sectors that align with the Governor’s Jobs4TN Sector Strategies plan. Through labor market data, strategy meetings, and other data gathering methods, the NWTNWB determines the jobs/occupations that fit into the high-growth, high-skill category, and then focuses training initiatives on those in-demand occupations. Based on this data, the NWTNWB focuses education and training on these sectors: Healthcare and Social Assistance, Business Services, including Information Technology, Transportation and Logistics, and Advanced Manufacturing. These sectors are shown to have positive job growth through labor market information provided by local employers, the TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and an economic analysis tool from Economic Modeling Systems, Inc. (EMSI).  

In a tight labor market, focusing on increasing participation in the workforce among target populations such as youth / young adults, individuals with disabilities, and justice-involved individuals remains a priority for the NWTNWB. During the past year, several new projects focusing on improving the skills and employability of such target populations were implemented. The Registered Electrical Apprenticeship Program (REAP) provided electrical apprenticeship training, offered by Amteck, for seven graduating students from Lake County High School. The Re-entry Advanced Manufacturing Program (RAMP) pilot program in Gibson and Dyer counties is offering inmates the opportunity to earn nationally-recognized credentials from the Manufacturing Skills Standard Council (MSSC) in Safety, Manufacturing Processes, Quality, and Maintenance Awareness, to become Certified Production Technicians.  Work Experience opportunities for those who lack employment history or have other barriers to employment will continue to be a focus of the NWTNWB. This year (2018-19) nearly $328,500 was spent in providing customers with paid work experiences.

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