Workforce summit looks beyond the pandemic

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 6:30 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - While some businesses are still being affected by the pandemic labor shortage, the Greater Memphis Chamber is looking to position Memphis to be more competitive for quality job growth.

However, while looking to the future, the Greater Memphis Chamber can’t help but look back on the momentum the city was feeling in the year leading up to the pandemic.

“Cranes were in the sky,” Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chief Economic Development Officer Ted Townsend said. “There was a tremendous amount of traction and capital investment and job creation was starting to occur for the first time. There was a real sense that finally this was our time. Then, COVID hits.”

Townsend said it took Memphis 10 years to bounce back after the recession. He said the community can’t wait another 10 years after this pandemic.

So, on Wednesday, the chamber hosted the Upskill 901 Workforce Summit. This is the third year for the summit.

UpSkill 901 is a chamber initiative that aligns education, training and certifications with workforce needs according to chamber spokesman Ryan Poe.

First, the group plans to use data from the newly established Center for Economic Competitiveness to see just what it will take to fill high quality jobs.

“The center’s data is showing us where we are ahead and where we are not,” Townsend said. “I’ll be frank these are sobering stats and Memphis has work to do.”

By improving things like growing STEM graduates and attracting businesses looking for diversity and inclusivity, the Chamber is hoping to create in 50,000 jobs in the Mid-South by 2030.

However, the Chamber reports Memphis graduates the second lowest numbers of STEM students compared to nine other similar size markets, but there is growth. It’s second in growth in the number of these graduates over five years.

“Our investors have been bullish on making sure that not only does Memphis grow jobs but we grow jobs at the clip that some of our largest competitors are growing,” Apryl Childs-Potter, Director of Brand Strategy and Integrated Communications at the chamber, said.

The chamber said while the region, along with the country, are still experiencing labor shortages, this initiative will help fill jobs in high-demand, high-wage industries in the years to come.

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