State members of the National Federation of Independent Business overwhelmingly support improved workforce development programs, according to NFIB’s annual survey ahead of the reconvening of the 110th Tennessee General Assembly scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 9. NFIB is the state’s leading small business association, representing more than 6,000 independent businesses.
Eighty-eight percent of NFIB members responding to a survey believe Tennessee “should do more to provide vocational and technology training for high school students who are not college-bound,” while seven percent oppose and four percent are undecided. NFIB Tennessee State Director Jim Brown said the problem of finding qualified workers is now third most important for small businesses nationally, according to NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends surveys, and it’s no different in Tennessee based on the current state survey.
“Tennessee continues to do better than most states economically, but challenges come with success,” said Brown, noting record-low unemployment rates of three percent are very positive but also create obstacles. “NFIB will be working more directly with the executive and legislative branches and other business groups to ensure Tennessee is meaningfully and reasonably meeting the specific workforce needs that various industries have in our communities.”
NFIB recently joined business, education and state leaders on a tour for conversations about next steps to improve workforce development. These ideas include expanding the Tennessee College for Applied Technology program, improving job training programs at community colleges, considering a return to more vocational schools in high schools, reviewing existing apprenticeship requirements that are overly restrictive in certain industries, and engaging students well before high school about career opportunities and workforce basics.
Other results from the 2018 NFIB/Tennessee Member Ballot:
- 51 percent of Tennessee members support legislation that provides tax incentives and public money for businesses to promote economic development and job growth, but a near-equal percentage, in total, is either opposed (29 percent) or undecided (19 percent)
- 72 percent oppose legislation requiring employers who do not offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan to offer a Tennessee-sponsored retirement account for their employees, while 15 percent favor and 13 percent are undecided
NFIB plans to monitor and likely survey specific tax reform proposals that are expected to emerge in 2018. NFIB will continue to work with leaders to improve Tennessee’s occupational licensing programs, as identified and as required by Public Chapter 1053, the Right to Earn a Living Act.