Tennessee Aims to Connect Workers With High-Demand Jobs

Published on Jan 3, 2018

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

Tennessee Aims to Connect Workers With High-Demand Jobs


Tennessee students and jobseekers now have an easier time finding educational programs that prepare for in-demand jobs thanks to a new report from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD). The fourth annual Labor and Education Alignment Program report, published in November, highlighted educational needs in STEM, IT, healthcare, and more.  


  • Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee legislature have allotted $20 million in competitive grants to help close the state’s skills gap.

  • Every year, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development uses Emsi data to present a workforce and education report and interactive dashboard.

  • Educational institutions use the report to steward grant programs for greater student impact. Students use the report to identify job positions in high demand by Tennessee employers.

Driving Decisions With Data

Ann Thompson

For some, graphs and numbers are the precise details that make the world tick, but for others, they might as well be Hieroglyphs. That’s why the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) organizes its annual labor report in a way that’s understandable. Last month, TNECD released its fourth annual Labor and Education Alignment Program (LEAP) report on workforce, education, and the Tennessee skills gap. The goal? Making a massive amount of data useful for educational institutions, residents, and businesses.

“It makes it consumable, so that anyone in any county at any location in Tennessee—and in the nation—can access not only numbers, but something that can drive decision making,” said Ann Thompson, TNECD’s director of workforce development.

This year’s report highlighted job openings in IT, healthcare, engineering, production, business and financial operations, transportation, and material moving operations. It also detailed postsecondary programs throughout Tennessee that prepare students for such in-demand jobs.

Prioritizing Education and Workforce Development

Katherine Scott

This report is part of Governor Haslam’s initiative to prioritize education and workforce development in Tennessee. Called Drive to 55, the initiative’s mission is to equip 55% of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025.

“The LEAP report provides data and guidance so communities can clearly understand the opportunities, the places where we have jobs, and the skillsets necessary to get those positions,” Thompson said.

The in-depth report breaks Tennessee into nine regions. Katherine Scott, a statistical research specialist for the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee (CERT), said this approach offers a personalized look at each region’s workforce needs. This helps educational institutions, residents, and businesses find information that’s most relevant to them.

Using Emsi Data to Paint a Picture

Sally Avery

CERT taps Emsi’s labor market analytics to conduct research for these reports with the goal of evaluating Tennessee’s workforce—and ultimately aligning it to help accelerate the state’s economy.

“We look at the job compilations in a region’s workforce and identify a median ratio of postings to employment, hires to employment, and openings to employment. Then we compare each occupation to the region’s median for those three factors. A job classification is in high demand if it has an above-median ratio for two of the three,” CERT Director Sally Avery said.

CERT also accounts for minimum wage and the number of jobs to ensure the jobs exist and are high quality. While complications always pop up, TNECD finds new ways to make the data cleaner and its recommendations more accurate. This year, TNECD started using Tableau, an interactive data visualization program, to build a more accessible dashboard, with graphics like the one below.

Adapting Data for Multiple Audiences

Like any economic ecosystem, Tennessee is made up of private citizens, higher education institutions, businesses, and more. Knowing that each group has its own challenges and concerns, Avery said TNECD adapted its report to fit their varying needs. This included mapping out which types of programs are needed to train workers in several high demand job areas. Higher education institutions can look at that information and adjust their curricula to meet those needs.

Other parts of the report are geared toward corporate audiences, whose main focus these days is recruiting and retaining talented employees.

“We are past the point where infrastructure is the number one concern, because all those things can be fairly easily remedied. The number one concern of business is workforce,” Thompson said.

The Emsi Advantage

Anyone who has gathered and presented data knows it’s challenging to A) gather enough of it to show an accurate picture, and B) present it in a way that’s understandable. That’s where Emsi comes in. Emsi gathers data across dozens of government sources and millions of job postings and social profiles, and makes it cool and relevant.

“It would take us days to pull this type of research together, but Emsi puts it in one place that makes it easy for us to connect.”

“We used to go to IPEDS [Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System] and BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] and all these different places. It would take us days to pull this type of research together, but Emsi takes all the same data and puts it in one place that makes it easy for us to connect,” Avery said.

Emsi’s user-friendly software is designed to make it simple to examine data according to both industry and occupation. It also matches less common job titles with more common SOC codes, making reports more robust and accurate.

“This is a good data-driven guide to be sure that we are really on track. You’ve got to have information to know where to go,” Thompson said.

For more information about Emsi data, contact Rob Sentz at rob@economicmodeling.com. Follow us @desktopecon