Complete Tennessee Leadership Academy: Community Ownership of Attainment Goals

Chattanooga, TN


Complete Tennessee pushes to increase local ownership of the state’s Drive to 55 goals in order to boost overall postsecondary attainment—and quality of life—in Tennessee.  For the fourth session of the Complete Tennessee Leadership Academy (CTLA), we exposed participants to initiatives in southeast Tennessee that highlight the power of on-the-ground engagement within one’s community.

Mayor Andy Berke welcomed the group to Chattanooga before a panel discussed the process of creating shared community values.  The panelists represented the collaborative initiatives in the region aimed at increasing postsecondary attainment, including Chattanooga 2.0 and Thrive 2055.

The following day started with a panel at Chattanooga State Community College (CSCC) on partnerships that work for students. Creating programs that balance institutional resources, industry demands, and student needs takes intentionality and time—but can produce impressive results.  Participants then toured examples of such partnerships, including the Wacker Institute at CSCC and the Volkswagen Akademie.

A highlight of the session was spending time with students of the Mechatronics Akademie—a partnership between CSCC, Volkswagen, and Hamilton County Department of Education.  Students selected for the program attend high school at the Volkswagen facility, where they are exposed to work-based education as well as early postsecondary opportunities.  Graduates of the program receive a high school diploma and more than half the credits needed for an associate’s degree in mechatronics—not to mention exposure to one of the region’s largest employers.

Students took questions from participants about why they chose to apply, their relationship with their home high schools, and how the experience has changed their goals for the future.  While quiet at first, students began sharing how exposure to the field had inspired them to continue their education in the areas of engineering and technology.

In some ways, the Chattanooga CTLA experience represented a culmination of previous CTLA topics.  Participants saw new, innovative programs that help develop Tennessee’s workforce while paying close attention to the needs of the students.  These programs would be impossible, however, if not from strong leadership and partnerships cross-sector partnership.  As the 2017 CTLA nears an end, we are excited for participants to take all they have learned and put it into action.