The President’s Column provides periodic updates to the community regarding the University of Tennessee System, and spotlights key issues and topics affecting the UT System and its campuses. While this column is distributed to our media partners across the state, we also wanted to share a copy with you.
There persists a long-standing misconception that universities function as isolated ivory towers, disconnected from the realities and challenges of the world beyond their campuses. However, the University of Tennessee System is steadfastly committed to dispelling this myth by focusing on equipping our students with the skills they need to meet the demands of employers today and tomorrow. I’m sure many of other great universities in Tennessee could say the same, but today I am just writing for the University of Tennessee.
With the ever-evolving landscape of industry demands and technological advancements, the need for a skilled and adaptable workforce has never been more critical. Across the UT System, we recognize this imperative, and it remains our steadfast mission to equip our students with the tools, knowledge and practical experiences that align with the evolving needs of the workforce. We do this by listening, aligning, and partnering with industry and all types of employers, from school districts to hospitals to auto manufacturers and every company in between.
Each of our five campuses has extensive partnerships with employers, and there are dozens of advisory boards at the department and college level helping ensure we are teaching the skills that employers need. For example, UT Knoxville (UTK) and the UT Medical Center (UTMC) have developed a remarkable nursing partnership. UTMC will provide tuition and fees, and a campus located on hospital property. UTK’s College of Nursing will then provide training for future nurses on the hospital site where they will work after graduation for at least two years. In addition, UT Knoxville has research and workforce development partnerships with Volkswagen, Eastman Chemical, AT&T and many more. Often the student researchers go on to a career with our partner companies.
UT Martin (UTM) has been closely working with Ford and the Blue Oval City team to ensure they are graduating top talent, while also extending the workforce pathway by “training the trainers” at the high school level. UTM is even leasing campus space at their Somerville satellite campus directly to Ford to provide training for future employees close to the new $5.6 billion operation. From engineers to accountants to cyber security and information technology specialists to human resource officers, and everything in between, UT Martin is there to support and plan long-term with employers.
UT Chattanooga (UTC) has had a long-standing relationship with the Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga and are now collectively building the first “Quantum City” in the country, which will generate even greater growth opportunities beyond the first Gig City a decade ago. UTC also partners with Volkswagen (VW), which has its North American headquarters and manufacturing just 10 miles from the campus. UTC does not just supply the technical workforce in key areas as identified by VW, but also is supporting it on research initiatives that will create even more high-paying quality jobs.
Without a doubt, the UT Health Science Center (UTHSC) is the most aligned university in the state. In hospitals from Erlanger in Chattanooga to St. Thomas in Nashville to the UT Medical Center in Knoxville, many of the doctors are actually UT faculty, and the hospitals have thousands of student residents working for them. In Memphis, many of St. Jude’s doctors are UT faculty, and at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Regional One, 100% of the doctors are UT faculty! From doctors to nurses to dentists to physical and occupational therapists to pharmacists, UT students are working in more than 800 hospitals and clinics around the state, many of which will be their eventual employer.
UTHSC also produces 40% of all medical doctors in the state and 70% of its dentists (1,373 and 323 per year, respectively). And during the last three years, the UT System serves as the No. 1 producer of teachers and nurses. From engineers to accountants to architects to computer scientists, the UT System is one of the state’s top developers of critical workforce talent.
Of course, we are also the largest talent engine in Tennessee, producing 13,465 new graduates in 2023, a 10.1% increase from just five years ago. There are 58,726 currently enrolled, which is a new UT System record and up 4.8% from last year. We will continue providing an even greater share of the workforce in the future.
Not only does UT supply the talent our state needs, but we are also a large employer with 13,834 highly trained and dedicated people located across each of our 95 counties. This makes us the fifth largest employer in the state! UT generated $3,959,203,039 in generated income and 79,418 in generated employment.
At the University of Tennessee, we are determined to make this our greatest decade, and one of the hallmarks will be our contributions to workforce and talent development.
Together, let us redefine the role of universities as dynamic hubs of knowledge and innovation, shaping a future where the transformative power of education knows no bounds. And we are well on our way!
President, University of Tennessee System