Mayor Karl Dean announced Wednesday that he would work to find the "appropriate agency" to coordinate adult-education efforts in the city.
The mayor's announcement came with the release of a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce study. The report highlighted the still-pervasive problem of an under-educated work force, which still includes tens of thousands of people who are functionally illiterate.
The assessment found that the number of non-English Language Learner adults in Metropolitan Nashville who cannot read or are without a high school diploma remains significant, with an estimated 63,053 adults 25 and older without a high school education; an estimated 52,000 Nashvillians 16 and older unable to read; and an estimated 38,499 residents over the age of 5 speaking English "less than very well."
While traditionally seen as a moral issue, the number of under-educated adults could lead to a labor shortage — making the problem an economic one.
The Chamber of Commerce projects that the 10-county Nashville region will have a cumulative shortage of 22,874 workers through 2017, or an excess average of 2,287 new jobs without qualified workers each year.
“While our current educational and employment pipeline will supply most of our future work force needs, it will not be enough,” said Marc Hill, chief education officer for the chamber. “A focus on adult education will help address this gap in qualified workers.”
The chamber study noted that while there are many providers of adult education in Metro, their efforts are not coordinated, leading to some areas where help is most needed — southeast Nashville, for example — being underserved, since most of the agencies are centered in the downtown core.
Because Nashville is the economic driver for most of Middle Tennessee, Dean said he will work with leaders in surrounding counties to make the commitment to better adult education a regional effort.