Last Thursday Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Reconnect to Workforce, a partnership between the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Tennessee Reconnect program and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
It’s designed to assist up to 500,000 Tennesseans claiming unemployment benefits to earn college degrees while fulfilling work-search requirements.
“As federal unemployment benefits end, we want to ensure Tennesseans have the tools needed to skill up and gain long-term employment,” Lee said.
“There are over 250,000 available jobs in Tennessee and this partnership will remove barriers so Tennesseans across our state can obtain the skills needed to acquire a high-quality job.”
“The biggest challenge in reconnecting Tennesseans to education is often financial hardship,” said Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mike Krause. “By removing this hurdle, we’re giving unemployed Tennesseans the opportunity to reskill and find a new path forward in our changing workforce.”
Tennessee Reconnect offers two years of tuition-free community or technical college by establishing last-dollar scholarships for eligible adults who have not yet obtained degrees.
Individuals from high-need populations make up a significant portion of grant recipients, including 58-percent having dependents and almost 70-percent making below $50,000 a year.
Last year, more than 2,000 students earned certificates or degrees.
Federal unemployment benefits funded by the CARES Act will expire as claimants reach the maximum 39 weeks of payments in the coming weeks. The last day to claim federal unemployment benefits is Dec. 26.