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Richard Locker
By Richard Locker February 3, 2012

Mobile training units a reality

Gov. Haslam launched the proposal at a speaking engagement in Knoxville April  22, 2010. Haslam envisioned the units as public/private partnerships that respond to the needs of local industries and employers.

"We have to think outside the box and be prepared to literally take education and training to the businesses, communities, and workers who need it,” Haslam said.

We asked Haslam"s staff how far the idea had gotten and we received this reply Jan. 4, 2012: "We have introduced the mobile career coaches through the Department of Labor and Workforce Development that have been successful in offering services to Tennesseans seeking and applying for work.”

Jeff Hentschel, the Labor Department's spokesman, said the coaches fulfill the promise Haslam made. There are three coaches – one each for West, Middle and East Tennessee – and they have been active in a number of ways regarding jobs.

In addition to training in skills like résumé writing and interviewing, the coaches can help match potential employees to jobs, serving as hiring centers for new employers who have yet to open offices and, in cases of multiple layoffs by existing employers, providing state aid services to people losing their jobs.

The governor and state Labor Commissioner Karla Davis displayed one of the coaches in a media event at the State Capitol on April 6, 2011, launching the program. A press release distributed at the event said each coach is customized with 10 computer workstations with Internet access, printers, fax machines, and flat-screen TVs "with SMART Board overlays to facilitate classroom instruction.” Each unit is staffed with three department employees trained in career counseling and unemployment benefits. It said they will conduct workshops in résumé preparation, job search skills and interviewing skills. The agency's adult education division will use the coaches for enrollment, orientation, administering GED practice tests, and offering GED classes. The release said the intent of "these roving offices is to bring job matching and training to rural communities that have limited access to a Tennessee Career Center.” A secondary function is acting as mobile command centers during natural disasters (each is outfitted with mobile communication to serve emergency services personnel.)
Although candidate Haslam envisioned a "public/private partnership,” the vehicles were funded through a $4.6 million federal grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for Re-Employment Services that Tennessee received in 2009, under former governor Phil Bredesen. Each unit costs about $188,000.

The department's website lists several places where the coaches have set up shop, including Union City for last summer's closing of the Goodyear plant. The West Tennessee coach also has been to Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis, on Sept. 14, 2011, to provide career resources for students and the community.

The website says that as of Jan. 17, 2012, the coaches had provided 13,603 job services and referrals, resulting in a 907 hires (as reported by businesses) and signed up 6,046 applicants for services.

Ruling: Promise Kept

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