The executive director of Tennessee's Higher Education Commission, Mike Krause, says the agency will form a task force to see how local colleges and universities can meet employer demands. The move aligns with Gov. Bill Lee's mission of creating more vocational education in the state.
During Wednesday's budget hearing, Krause said he’s fearful colleges and universities in the state aren’t preparing students for jobs of the future. He says they should talk to employers before considering new course offerings.
"The liberal arts delivery needs to continue, but for Tennesseans who may be facing their jobs being completely disrupted by artificial intelligence in the next few years, I do think moving that to the head of the priority list is the right choice right now," Krause said.
Research shows students’ chances of getting a job could be higher if their degrees align with local labor demands. That’s according to Shaun Dougherty, a vocational education expert at Vanderbilt University. But, he says there could be downsides for students if their education becomes too narrow.
"By being trained in a really specific area, if someone wanted to change careers 15 years later, it could be more challenging to switch careers," Dougherty said.
"I think having folks that are well-rounded and get exposed to a broader range of options is probably better for us in the long-term. But, there's a real risk of having people take on a lot of debt to take on a liberal arts degrees and end up not earning a wage to pay off that debt."
Krause says he thinks the state can find a balance between traditional liberal arts degrees and vocational needs.