Collectively Clearing the Path for Our Future Workforce

Jennifer Andrews, Chatt 2.0 Program & Engagement Manager

There’s something unique about the subject of education when you’re in your 20s. Between finishing college and settling down to start a family, school typically is not at the forefront of your mind. It is perhaps the only time in your life when school doesn’t have to be on your radar (unless you work for the school system, of course). But before you know it, the blur of your mid-20s ends, the fog lifts and you realize that you’ve planted some roots and it might be time to start caring about the city and state where you’ll be raising children.  

I was new to the city and during my college years and early career, everyone I encountered in Chattanooga spoke of the beautiful mountains and the schools that left much to be desired. As it turns out, something amazing was happening here right under my nose. Over the last few years, Tennessee has grown to become a national leader for education reform. Here in Chattanooga, we are proud to be leading the state in cradle-through-career initiatives, made possible by the collective efforts of community and industry partners brought together in a coalition called Chattanooga 2.0. Comprised of hundreds of dedicated education and community leaders, the coalition is bringing our community together to ensure all Hamilton County children start kindergarten ready to learn, have access to quality schools, obtain a postsecondary degree or technical credential and are prepared to enter the workforce making a living wage. 

Chattanooga 2.0 began in 2015 with two bold goals in mind: to double the number of degrees and certificates awarded to Hamilton County high school graduates and to increase the overall percentage of adults in Hamilton County with a college degree or certificate.  

Focused on three main areas covering early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary/workforce development, the coalition has seen success through the collective impact of its members. By having industry leaders, local business owners, nonprofits, elected officials and educators come together with a united goal and vision, we have collectively changed the education landscape and are shaping the future of Chattanooga for generations to come. 

Coalition members working in early childhood created a targeted outreach plan for ACEs trainings and as a result, our community’s awareness of the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences has grown significantly. 

Last summer, through the combined effort of over 16 different member organizations, a free kindergarten readiness program called Camp K launched with overwhelming success. Hosted in 13 schools, 289 children learned skills necessary to enter kindergarten ready for school and their parents were engaged in activities to help their children be successful. Overall, their kindergarten readiness scores increased by an average of 14 points. 

The coalition also provided significant support for the creation of the Future Ready Institutes, which are specific career-themed programs within 13 public schools, to help ensure our students are workforce ready and increase the qualified talent pipeline in Hamilton County.  

A decade after college, I now live with my husband and 9-month-old in Chattanooga, where the mountains are beautiful and the schools are improving. When I think about my son starting school, I am filled with excitement at the endless number of pathways available to him, even as a kindergartner.  

Chattanooga 2.0’s collective impact coalition is reshaping our community and the way we view education by recognizing education is not one size fits all. This dedicated group of community leaders are working together to push barriers aside to clear the way for all students to earn living wage jobs. 

The work happening in Chattanooga is a blueprint that can be used across the state to ensure every student in Tennessee receives a quality education and is prepared for college and career. Let’s build upon the unprecedented work happening in Hamilton County and continue working together to provide the best possible outcomes for our students.  

Education is no one organization’s responsibility. Our children belong to all of us and we are all responsible for their future success. Collective impact – Collectively, our impact is far greater than working alone. 

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