New report highlights workforce barriers in Middle Tennessee

downtown nashville
Posted at 7:09 PM, Feb 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-21 08:46:02-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) - — As Middle Tennessee bounces back from the COVID pandemic, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is taking a deeper look at the issues facing residents in its new 2021 Vital Signs Report.

With the help of census data and other resources, the Chamber's Research Center surveyed 3,100 Middle Tennesseans in 2021. The results showed one issue seemed to rise above the rest- a shortage of workers.

"The big punchline however is that as a region we need to be working on making sure that all Middle Tennesseans, whether they have a job or are seeking a job, have the training that they need," said Chief Policy Officer for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Carlat.

The issue is especially prevalent in the hospitality and retail industries, which lost about 17,000 jobs combined during the pandemic.

"The Vital Signs Report shows that in coming decades there's going to be jobs in healthcare and in IT and they're better paying jobs, but if we don't work on the education and training we won't have the workforce for those jobs," said Carlat.

But providing training and upward mobility might only solve part of the problem. Workers can't work in Middle Tennessee if they can't find a place to live.

The migration of outsiders buying up middle and low incoming housing presents a challenge for locals. Carlat said, "that is putting a real pressure on housing for some of our folks that work in hospitality and leisure, that work in healthcare, that work in childcare."

Still, Middle Tennesseans are feeling confident about their personal wealth in the near future.

It's that feeling of optimism and opportunity that has many people coming- and staying- in the region. "So that kind of optimism for the future, which I think is a real benefit that isn't tangible but it matters to Middle Tennessee, that's still there," said Carlat.

The report is available for the public and may be used to help inform elected officials and policy makers on decision making.