Nashville, TENN. – Today, Mayor John Cooper announced the formation of the Youth Career Exploration and Alignment Opportunities Task Force, the latest example of his administration’s commitment to investing in youth career development. This first-of-its-kind group for Nashville comes as Mayor Cooper made the largest investment for Metro Nashville Public Schools in Nashville’s history for the second year in a row earlier this year. The task force will expand workforce development, career exploration options and enhance access to high-wage, high-demand industry jobs for youth and young adults in Nashville. 

“We know that an early introduction to job opportunities can shape a positive path forward in young people’s careers,” said Mayor John Cooper. “Connecting young people to good-paying jobs in growing industries – like music and entertainment, tourism and hospitality, and healthcare — is an essential way we can grow our economy in Nashville in a way that works for everyone. I’m grateful for the task force for finding new and creative ways to introduce career opportunities to Nashville’s emerging professionals, which can also motivate students to achieve more while they are in school.” 

The task force, in agreement with Mayor Cooper and partnerships with The Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA) and the Nashville Public Library, will develop a strategy and a business plan on avenues to expand youth career exploration and youth employment opportunities based on existing models and best practices.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to create a business plan about youth career exploration and job skills,” said Councilmember Thom Druffel. “Due to the growing needs of jobs in Nashville, this is a great win-win. Our investment in our future workforce and leaders will provide growth in our communities and provide an excellent place for employers to find skilled staff.”

Nashville is facing significant economic growth, and part of the task force’s plan will focus on workforce development in leading industries in the city – music and entertainment, tourism and hospitality, healthcare management and technology – to create a talent pipeline for the future.

“Students see lifelong benefits from early opportunities to explore their interests, learn about potential careers and learn how to gain job experience, especially as they began to think about choosing a high school academy and career pathway,” said Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber is excited to be a part of this work, engaging businesses in hands-on learning opportunities for students and building upon the work-based learning continuum framework where in the middle school years, students are learning about work through industry and career exploration.” 

Nashville’s current unemployment rate is about 3 percent with strong short and long-term job needs in most industries including health care, hospitality, construction, and technology.  

Earlier this year, Mayor Cooper proposed a $10 million transformation of Fisk University’s Burrus Hall into an innovation incubator facility with more than 12,000 square feet of flexible space. The partnership will drive small business support and connect young people to tech and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Members of the Youth Career Employment and Alignment Opportunities Task Force include:

Council Member Thom Druffel – Metro Nashville Council (Chair)

Deputy Mayor Brenda Haywood (Vice Chair)

Abby Mosby – Nations Ministry Center

Allie Duke – Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA)

Anna Harutyunyan – Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA)

Bob Kucher – PENCIL

Brenda Greene – PENCIL

Brian Lowenthal – Improving the Odds 

Darrell Caldwell – Why We Can’t Wait

Dewayne Scott – Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce

Dr. Rena Hall – Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Shanna Jackson – Nashville State Community College

Herbert Brown – Turner Construction

Jennifer Bell – Metro Nashville Public School

Council Member Jennifer Gamble – Metro Nashville Council

Kathryn Sinback – Juvenile Court, Metropolitan Government

Katie Hazelwood – Scarlett Family Foundation

Katina Bass – Metro Action Commission

Kristin Swaffer – Ascension St. Thomas Midtown

La’Kishia Harris – Mayor’s Office

Lee Gray – Oasis Center

Leesa LeClaire – Greater Nashville Hospitality Association

Makeda Watson – Metro Nashville Public School

Mikah Kimble – Backfield in Motion

Mohamed Hassan – Mayor’s Office

Nathan Garrett – Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT)

Ray Holloman – Enterprise Disaster Recovery

Ron Johnson – Mayor’s Office

Sam Petsculat – Music City Construction Careers

Shohreh Daraei – Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

Tanya Evrenson – Metro Action Commission

Victor Berrios – Jani-King of Nashville

Zuhair Al-Bunni, Conrad Hilton