At a minimum, it’s a lost decade for workforce development in Memphis. With a slant toward Bachelor degree attainment, Smart City just wrote a blog referencing 20 years of workforce hyperbole and no plan. And this blog recently documented 10 yrs of elitist botching of the workforce development system.
The botching continues today through a narrative that prioritizes diversity and inclusion, social and emotional learning, critical race theory, UofM tennis courts and swimming pools. Does anyone find it damn weird that career technical education (CTE) and community college is not part of the local economic development narrative?
This unfortunate narrative, accommodates an imploding Shelby County Schools CTE concentrator rate to 12% in 2019. At the same time, in spite of the former, the labor market is rewarding Southwest community college degrees with state of TN leading 2017-19 28% wage increases per aSCORE report.
The fact is, with Shelby County ranking 9 out of 10, of the Chamber selected 10 cities in Associates and Bachelors degree production, both local Associate and Bachelor degree production needs to increase. But what should the workforce investment priorities be? Lets take a look.
By just bringing Shelby County Schools CTE concentrator and Southwest Community College completion rates up to state averages, wage potential increases by $1 billion over 10 years. And $2 billion if multipliers are used. So here are the simple priorities to course correct the lost decade in Memphis/Shelby workforce development efforts:
- Increase the CTE concentrator rate in Shelby County Schools to at least the the state average of 42%. Why? Regardless of concentrator post secondary enrollment rates, concentrators graduate high school at a higher rate (7%) and earn more than non-concentrators. So in this way, post secondary enrollment rates do not matter. Besides, the post secondary enrollment data is inconclusive and all over the place on the question of CTE concentrators vs non-concentrators.
- Increase Southwest Community College completion rates to the state average. This would produce approximately 1,000 more completers per year.
The above table analysis assumes $10K more in wages for increased high school graduation, $1,500 more for being a high school CTE concentrator and $13K more for earning an Associates or less post secondary credential.
And finally, prioritizing CTE and community colleges aligns with Bartik research for economic development purposes more so than investing in less tax incentives and less predictable university populations.