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Finding Resources

Locate Resources to Support Your Company's Educational Strategy

When pinpointing your needs and aligning your employees' learning opportunities, you gathered information on your company’s current workforce issues and how to analyze your existing human capital strategies. These steps are vital to making thoughtful and deliberate changes to your existing approach with talent development and retention. Before moving to the implementation of new educational initiatives in your workplace, take a look at resources already available to you. We now guide you to existing educational supports for your company and your employees. It is important to view these resources for your employees to expedite and engage in education opportunities as tools for improving your company’s talent development and, subsequently, your bottom line. This shift in company culture will impact the overall success of improving and implementing new initiatives. These resources can also cut back on initial costs and duplication. Included are individual contacts, cost-saving initiatives, and other information you will find useful in identifying opportunities to make education a vital part of your company’s human capital strategy.

It is likely that different employees in your company can benefit from different credentials, so a good place to start these conversations is with your local postsecondary institutions. Locating a nearby institution will allow your employees to participate in on-site classes and provide your company with an opportunity to bring those instructors into your workplace. Contacts for each type of institution are available here: College Contacts, but you can also research more on your own here:

University of Tennessee System

Tennessee Board of Regents Universities

Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association

Tennessee Community Colleges

Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology

Associate degrees are most commonly available at the state community colleges. Bachelor’s degrees are available through the University of Tennessee institutions, the Tennessee Board of Regents universities (such as the University of Memphis or East Tennessee State University), and the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association campuses (such as Vanderbilt University or Lee University). With the creation of the Tennessee Transfer Pathway, your employees can earn associate's degrees and then transfer the bulk of their credits into a bachelor’s degree, significantly shortening their time to degree for a bachelor’s.

This also means that your employees will be credentialed faster, bringing value back to your bottom line sooner.

Providing employees with an opportunity to develop broad, integrative knowledge can provide numerous benefits for employee productivity and satisfaction, even though more advanced degrees with broader coursework may have a higher initial cost. Employees who earn associate's and bachelor's degrees can provide the following benefits to  your organization: 

Associate's degree holders can:

  • Describe how existing knowledge or practice is advanced, tested and revised.
  • Describe and examines a range of perspectives on key debates and their significance both within the field and in society.
  • Illustrate core concepts of the field while executing analytical, practical or creative tasks.
  • Select and apply recognized methods of the field in interpreting characteristic discipline-based problems.
  • Assemble evidence relevant to characteristic problems in the field, describes the significance of the evidence, and uses the evidence in analysis of these problems.
  • Describe the ways in which at least two disciplines define, address and interpret the importance of a contemporary challenge or problem in science, the arts, society, human services, economic life or technology.

Bachelor's Degree holders can:

  • Frame complex scientific, social, technological, economic or aesthetic challenges or problems from the perspectives and literature of at least two academic fields, and propose a “best approach” to the question or challenge using evidence from those fields.
  • Produce, independently or collaboratively, an investigative, creative or practical work that draws on specific theories, tools and methods from at least two academic fields.
  • Explains a contemporary or recurring challenge or problem in science, the arts, society, human services, economic life or technology from the perspective of at least two academic fields, explains how the methods of inquiry and/or research in those disciplines can be brought to bear in addressing the challenge, judges the likelihood that the combination of disciplinary perspectives and methods would contribute to the resolution of the challenge, and justifies the importance of the challenge in a social or global context. 

-Information on degree qualifications from NILOA (2013)

Certificates are markedly different from associate's and bachelor’s degree. Certificate programs aim to provide a specialized skill set necessary for defined career paths. However, as new programs have been created to meet demand, many of these skills are necessary in a variety of settings such as electronics technology or industrial maintenance. These pre-defined skills can be very useful, making this an attractive option for working learners and your bottom line. A typical program can be completed in under two years and tuition is almost entirely covered for Tennessee residents through the Wilder Naifeh Technical Skills Grant. The Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) are designed to provide certificate programs and are available throughout the state, 27 institutions total. A few points on certificates:

  • 12-24 months in length
  • Focused on a specialized technical skill such as welding, industrial maintenance, CAD technology, or computer operations technology
  • Tuition is mostly covered by the Wilder Naifeh Technical Skills Grant (Wilder Naifeh)
  • Available through all Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and some Tennessee Community Colleges
  • Often credits earned in a certificate program count towards an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science to continue education
  • Development of programs is based on proven economic/workforce need

Integrating Education into the Workplace

Learning through On-the-Job Experience 

A highly desirable candidate is one who brings both education and experience to your company. Finding ways to provide opportunities within your company will augment your applicant pool and build a sustainable workforce development strategy. Internships, co-operatives, and work-based learning are similar in structure and all supplement academic coursework with workplace experience.

Differences vary by institution, but traditionally internships are the most common form of on-the-job experience, and employers can utilize a lot of flexibility the program. Yet, federal laws surrounding internships can be confusing. It’s important to understand when creating an internship program that your company cannot gain any immediate benefit from your interns. This means that you cannot profit from the work of an intern or allow them to take on the role and tasks of a paid employee. You can find the Federal Department of Labor’s guidelines here: DOL Internship Guidelines. Work-based learning is typically integrated into high school career and technical education classes, as well as many curricula at two- and four-year colleges. Co-operatives are semester long appointments with a company for which students are usually paid employees. For the purposes of building any one of these programs, the best step is to speak with your local postsecondary institution. Find a list of those contacts here: College Contacts.

Externships are another way to engage local partners in your company's strategies. Externships, like internships, allow students to learn on the job. Externships, however, are designed to be shorter experiences that allow both students and employers to offer more flexibility with less of a commitment.

Additionally, inviting local professors, instructors, and high school administrators to experience day-to-day operations of your company directly will increase their understanding of your company's needs regarding workforce talent and skills. Through this process, representatives of educational institutions are then able to modify their classes based on what skills they see are in demand. These visits can lead to cost effective ways of partnering with local institutions and to more engagement with your community.

Each of these on-the-job models enhance classroom lessons by inviting students or instructors into your workplace to gain experience as employees of your company. Read on in "Classes in the Workplace" for more information on opening classroom opportunities to your employees.

Many companies offer to pay a portion of tuition for their employees to take classes from local or online colleges and universities. The caveats and structures vary, but the general model is referred to as tuition assistance (TA). While TA is usually thought of as a formalized tuition reimbursement program, TA can also include covering the costs of books or Prior Learning Assessment, providing a stipend for courses, recognizing academic milestones, or providing a completion bonus, making TA something any company, large or small, can pursue.

Focus groups with Tennessee human resources representatives in 2013 revealed what the research has shown - that tuition assistance programs are traditionally provided as an employee benefit, but are often underutilized. By being more deliberate about your tuition assistance program, your company can use it as a strategy for talent development. Removing some of the upfront cost of tuition by prepaying fees can encourage your employees to participate. Discussing the opportunities and costs available at local institutions with your employees can remove a lot of the uncertainty about returning to school, and local colleges are usually very willing to talk to employees about their education options Contacts for Tennessee institutions are available here: College Contacts. Additional information is also available under Financial Aid and Assess Current Programs.

Providing educational opportunities in your place of business removes many of the barriers to education for working learners. Childcare, work commitments, transportation, financial restraints, and the ever looming time constraints are all obstacles that can be eliminated through classes in the workplace. Classes in the workplace can range from one- time informational classes to the more labor intensive on-site programs. An example of an informational class on site would be the FAFSA completion events discussed under “Financial Aid” in the next section. These types of classes vary in time and investment demands on the part of both your company and your employees, but can be used to introduce local education opportunities and information.

Slightly more investment is needed to host a class for postsecondary credit in your office. Postsecondary credit can be training for a certificate or credit hours towards a degree. You can work with your local postsecondary institution to tailor a class to the needs of your workforce. For example, a manufacturing facility may wish to provide health and safety training through the local college of applied technology. Because these classes are often part of a predefined curriculum, there is not much preparation needed to develop the content for your employees. To find out what your local colleges can offer you, contact the colleges directly. Contacts are listed here: College Contacts.

For larger companies, providing coursework on-site that ends in a credential is a big investment with a big return. Many companies across the country are partnering with their local institutions to provide a tailored program based on their company’s skill-needs. An example is Toyota’s AMT program, in which students spend a portion of the work week in class and a portion working on-site for credit.

Resources for Working Learners

Providing the proper resources for working learners may be the difference between a learner gaining new and valuable skills and a new credential or not. These resources can also maximize the value and minimize the costs for both your business and your employees. Many people falsely assume that financial aid is only for inexperienced students fresh out of high school, but significant financial aid opportunities exist for adult learners. Additionally, Prior Learning Assessment, or PLA credits, can help students who have already developed certain skills to earn credit for those skills without taking a class. Finally, one of the most important things employers can do for adult students is to offer flexible class schedules to better balance commitments to work, school, and other responsibilities.

Your employees may be eligible for various types of financial aid. However almost all forms of federal and state aid are made available through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an online and paper application. This form is required to be filled out annually and within set deadlines. Providing guidance on the FAFSA is a simple way to support working learners. Because the deadlines and forms are so regimented, your company has the opportunity to make an annual event out of the FAFSA completion and encourage employee participation.

The office of Federal Student Aid also provides pamphlets and other information on aid for adults that you can provide to your employees. That information is available here: Federal Student Aid for Adult Students. Additional information on the FAFSA is available here: Federal Student Aid. Tennessee is working diligently to provide more financial aid opportunities to adult learners. With the creation of the lottery scholarship, a non-traditional scholarship was included for adults returning to school. Need based aid is also available through the Tennessee Student Assistance Awards. You can see other types of aid here: College Pays. Often times your local institutions have financial aid opportunities specific to their institution for adults. However, all of them begin with the completion of the FAFSA allowing you as an employer a great opportunity to provide financial aid opportunities to your working learners through assisting in FAFSA completion.

The Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation Outreach Specialists are a great resource to your company. These representatives are available to travel throughout the state and provide hands on assistance and guidance with all things financial aid. They often assist in FAFSA completion events to answer any questions about the application and also work with adults to provide information unique to their educational and financial needs. Bringing an outreach specialist into your workplace for an informational event or FAFSA completion program makes accurate financial aid information accessible to your employees at no cost to your company. Reach out to your regional outreach specialists here under “Communication Services” TSAC Outreach Specialists.

Prior Learning Assessment, or PLA, is a process that institutions of higher education use to award credits for experiences  or skills learned in the workplace. Taking a class to learn a skill that has already been developed merely because a formal class for credit hasn't been taken is a waste of time and money for both students and institutions, so PLA credits were developed so that students can earn credits for skills they already have without needlessly taking classes. This process also provides students more flexibility and a quicker path to a degree. Different schools have different processes for assessing PLA credit, but you can learn more by going to

Scheduling is one of the most common barriers to your employees returning to school. In addition to flexible time and open resources while on the clock, your company can provide information to your employees on the varying class schedules available to students today. Online classes provide your working learners with the convenience of working from home while working through content specifically designed for distance learning. Virtual classrooms deliver quality instruction regardless of location and are available at several institutions throughout the state. More information about online classes in Tennessee is available via this Tennessee Board of Regents informational website and via the University of Tennessee System Online.

Night classes are also a good way to accommodate working learners and are available at many institutions. These classes are not limited to bachelor’s degrees. In fact, many Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology offer full programs through night and weekend classes. The opportunity to begin and complete a full certificate program outside of traditional business hours can be an empowering educational tool for your employees. On top of providing new ways to attend and complete classwork, your company will benefit from the increased skills and knowledge your employees gain.

Flexible class schedules also include accelerated programs available at many institutions. These “finish faster” programs are designed to save money and time for both you and your employees. Almost every community college offers some form of accelerated program. It is important to note that these are full credentialing programs with condensed but comprehensive coursework meaning that you are not sacrificing quality for time. An employee participating in a finish faster degree will cost less in tuition and will be back in the workforce with an additional credential faster than traditional students by finishing in under 18 months (sometimes less). Information on accelerated programs at the community colleges is available from the Tennessee Reconnect website.

These programs and classes vary from general education classes to more specified and technical skills. Over the past several years, institutions have worked to tailor more opportunities to working learners. With time, they have become more supportive and flexible in institutional programs. Your company is able to capitalize on this progress to better serve your human capital needs. Being more aware of the flexible classes online and locally as well as promoting these opportunities within your company can be a crucial step in building a sustainable strategy for internal talent development. For information on moving these types of opportunities into your workplace, please see: Classes in the Workplace.

The Tennessee Board of Regents has created finish faster programs designed to credential a student in under 18 months with the full course content of a traditional program.

To locate a program near you, visit: Tennessee Reconnect — Finish Faster Programs.

Regional Resources

These regional resources have been collected so that employers can utilize the resources of their local communities to improve their workforce. In doing so, partnerships are created that serve the interests of both businesses and the community.

These 13 regions were defined by similar labor, commuting, and economic factors. Each region has a board available to assist in career service needs.

To find your contact please visit: TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development Workforce Training

The mission of Graduate Memphis is to increase the number of adults with quality post-secondary credentials in the Memphis Metropolitan Area. It has partnered with local colleges and universities that are fully regionally accredited, have high graduation rates, and offer courses that are flexible, focused, and convenient for adults.

The Graduate Memphis College Resource Center is located on the first floor of the Benjamin L. Hooks Library, 3030 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN. They can be reached by phone at (901) 415-2774 or through their website: Graduate Memphis.

The goal of REDI is to create a public/private sector partnership the region of West Tennessee to address issues that affect job creation and quality of life for West Tennessee citizens. The consensus is that the future of economic development for this region is linked to transforming the educational culture and improving access to higher education for both youth and adults. The REDI College Access Program is one of the key components of this regional initiative surrounding 12 counties. Other programs include wider access to broadband capabilities and other economic drivers that will move this region ahead.

For additional information, go to

PeopleFirst is an unprecedented collaboration to strengthen Memphis and Shelby County's cradle-to-career pipeline. Spearheaded by the PeopleFirst Partnership, it is a portfolio of initiatives developed and implemented by "collective action networks" and anchored by four goals, ten strategies and key performance metrics.

For more information on these ten strategies and Memphis Fast Forward, visit their website at People First — A Memphis Fast Forward Initiative.

This website will allow you to search for your local chamber of commerce and also provides contact information. That search information can be found here: Tennessee Chambers of Commerce.

Statewide Resources

These resources are provided to businesses within the state of Tennessee:

This program incentive is available to both new and expanding industry and begins with a company developing a training plan including the number of people to be hired, types of skills required and types of training needed. The plan is developed in conjunction with the FastTrack staff and is designed to be customizable and flexible. Companies will track costs associated with implementation of the training program, then submit to the state for reimbursement. Job training assistance can include either traditional or job based training reimbursement.

Traditional training and reimbursement may include:

  • Classroom instruction.
  • On-the-job training.
  • Vendor training from the actual manufacturer of a piece of industrial equipment.
  • System support for certain types of plant-wide or company-wide applications.
  • Development and coordination of instructional materials and training programs.
  • Travel related to training.

More information about the Fast Track Training Assistance Program can be found at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development website.

Similar to FJTAP, but with a focus on employers and industries that create high-skill, high-wage jobs in emerging, high-demand and technology focused sectors of the economy. Training staff will work with companies to develop a unique, flexible, comprehensive training plan that meets the company's initial training needs and will then follow up to insure each phase of the program meets the company's needs. Companies track costs and apply to the State for reimbursement. Reimbursement rates depend on the level of training and the types of instructors utilized. More information about TJS can be obtained by calling (615) 741-6201.

Jeff Bolton
Director, Economic Development Grants and Loans
(615) 253-1909

Both public systems in the state have dedicated programs for online participation. These classes are tailored to distance learning and flexible scheduling. Programs offered vary from technical skills to general education.

University of Tennessee System

Tennessee Board of Regents

Western Governor’s University

In order to qualify, companies must work with ECD to reach a contractual agreement that determines:

  • The cost-per-job and the total commitment of jobs.
  • Once agreed upon with ECD, companies can seek reimbursement of 50% of the cost-per-job within the first 90 days after the job is created and maintained. The remaining 50% can be claimed 180 days after the job is created and maintained.
  • The company must agree to provide documentation, including the number of jobs created.
  • Multi-year contracts between a company and ECD can be reached to accommodate multi-year job creation projects.

If the total commitment of jobs is reached, companies may seek the entire training reimbursement allocation through JBT.

Contact number: (615) 741-6201

This website provides resources on college and career planning. is the State of Tennessee’s free, one-stop college portal that allows students to plan, prepare, and apply for college and any kind of formal education after high school.

Students can take online career and interest assessments as they explore college majors and potential careers. also offers a guided resume builder, ACT and SAT test preparation, and customizable high school and college planning timelines. The web portal also offers financial aid guides and resources specific to Tennessee.

As part of Governor Haslam's Jobs4TN economic development plan, the TN Department of Economic and Community Development restructured the state into jobs base camps with field staff from the state. Contacts are:


Blake Swaggart

Northwest Tennessee Regional Director                   

(731) 437-9443


Gwyn Fisher

Greater Memphis Regional Director



Roger Sigler

Southwest Tennessee Regional Director

(731) 514-0335


Reggie Mudd

Northern Middle Tennessee Regional Director

(615) 957-2695


Clay Banks

Southern Middle Tennessee Regional Director

(731) 803-9301


Rebecca Hargrove Smith

Upper Cumberland Regional Director

(931) 252-8088


Sam Wills

Southeast Tennessee Regional Director

(423) 254-4275


LeRoy Thompson

East Tennessee Regional Director

(865) 314-4940


Iliff McMahan

Northeast Tennessee Regional Director

(423) 290-1520