Meet the Industry Council Chairs Supporting Hamilton County Future Ready Institutes

What does it mean to be future ready? In Hamilton County, it means giving students every resource possible to begin a career after graduation. The Future Ready Institutes offer integrated instruction around different career themes in Hamilton County high schools, with guidance from community business partners. 

Industry Council Chairs review curriculum and share their expertise to ensure students learn based on the most updated industry practices in four career clusters: STEM, business, public service and health care.

Get to know our four Council Chairs below. 

Leslie Gower

Executive Director, Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee
STEM Council

Gower started her career as a public relations director with an association in Detroit and found she loved the multi-faceted, fast-paced work of association management. For many years Gower worked for association management firms representing a variety of industries, from pro sports to health care to manufacturing. Then for 17 years she worked with an economic development agency focused on rebuilding downtown Memphis. When the opportunity to run the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of East Tennessee came along, it represented a special blend of Gower's experience with association work and with the people building our communities.  

“At the heart of the Industry Council is student success, and to me success is the ability to use your inherent talents and gifts in a meaningful way. What I love about Future Ready is that students are encouraged to foster and follow their skills toward careers they will have for life. When I started working at AGC, I heard repeatedly from construction companies about the high demand for quality employees, and in turn, I learned that the construction industry offers lucrative and rewarding career paths. Our industry has not done a good job in illuminating career paths for students, and so there’s great opportunity to bring industry closer to the education process to help sculpt curriculum, provide mentorships and share what success looks like in the industry,” Gower says.   

Miles Huff

Corporate Social Responsibility, Unum
Business & IT Council

Huff was born in the hills of eastern Kentucky in Harlan County, and is proud to have been born and raised in Appalachia. Huff settled down in Chattanooga after grad school at Lee University after falling in love with the city and is now proud to call it home. Currently, Huff is a part of the Corporate Social Responsibility team at Unum and oversees Chattanooga and the Unum field offices. Huff is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga and is involved in multiple other community efforts.

“As an organization, Unum is dedicated to giving back to the communities in which we live, work and play. Within that commitment is a large focus on K-12 public education, so our partnership with Hamilton County Schools is incredibly important. My involvement with the Industry Council is an extension of that commitment, and of Unum’s partnership with the Future Ready Institutes. On top of that, my involvement in the council allows me to roll up my sleeves and partner with a group of amazing thought leaders in Chattanooga as we work to ensure our educational system has the support it needs from the for-profit sector, and that Unum’s contributions go beyond a charitable contribution,” Huff says.

Shawanna Kendrick

Community Organizer for the Office of District Attorney General Neal Pinkston – 11th Judicial District
Public Service Council

Kendrick is the first African-American female to serve as Community Organizer for the Office of District Attorney General Neal Pinkston - 11th Judicial District. Since 2017, this role has afforded her the opportunity to partner with area entities and create programs for those most at risk of offending and reoffending. These programs include “Women Empowering Women!” and “Girls Empowered,” where she teaches adult women and high school girls about self-worth, healthy decision-making, altering thought processes and more. Kendrick will soon assist in launching an additional program for elementary students most at risk for gang involvement. Kendrick believes her previous community advocacy efforts coupled with past professional experience in TV news, education and the communication/marketing arenas have allowed her to bring unique expertise to the position for the greater good of the community.

”It is imperative for business professionals to understand the value of providing educational opportunities and resources to our future leaders. The key word being ‘future.’ Collectively and collaboratively, it is our job to assist in preparing students for the workforce if we want to see both our economy and our community thrive. The Industry Council offers all of us a meaningful opportunity to do so,” Kendrick says.

Courtney Reynolds

Human Resources Director, Blood Assurance
Health Care Council

Reynolds has been in the human resources profession for more than 20 years, and holds both the SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications as well as a BBA in Marketing from Southern Methodist University. She is a long-standing member of the national and local SHRM organizations and has been employed as the Human Resources Director at Blood Assurance for more than 9 years. Reynolds is a Chattanooga native who is married-with-labs to another Chattanooga native and local photographer, Dan Reynolds. Her favorite hobbies include hiking and watching sports and her favorite season is Tide football.

“I chose to get involved with the Chamber’s Industry Council on Health Care for several reasons, the most obvious of which includes supporting my employer’s talent recruitment needs. I also like the idea of contributing to an express strategic effort that will develop local talent from cradle-through-career. I think it’s important for our communities to have a competitive pipeline of workers who are well-prepared to meet today’s employer needs and who can have meaningful careers for a lifetime… and to that end, I look forward to helping facilitate discussions between our local education and employer organizations that can lead to meaningful action for all vested parties,” Reynolds says.         

Want to be a Future Ready Institute Partner?

A Future Ready Institute school partner consists of a business or community organization willing to support the development of Hamilton County’s future talent and establish a formal partnership agreement with a high school institute.

The overall partnership will result in collaboration between the school and partner to prepare students for post-secondary life. Partnership activities vary, depending on the institute’s needs and the business’ interests and resources.

We ask interested businesses to complete a Partnership Agreement with the Future Ready Institutes. The agreement will let us know how you'd like to assist with this program.