KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Gov. Bill Haslam's effort to take education reform to the college level brought him to Knoxville Tuesday.
The governor hosted the third in a series of conversations across the state with business, local legislators and post-secondary institutions.
Tuesday's meeting focused on what works and what could work better, especially when it comes to matching student skills with job openings.
Haslam told business and education officials he wants the state to become a national model for post-secondary education.
He also wants to make sure people are being prepared for the type of workers that employers need.
"I think the state that figures out how to address the employer's needs, figures out what those are and communicates that to the coming generation of workers is the one that's going to win," Haslam said.
The governor said in order for the state to be more competitive, college tuition needs to be affordable. He also wants to increase the number of college graduates in the state and make sure they're qualified enough when leaving school.
"It's a crying shame that in today's economy where we have huge employment there are still a lot of good jobs going begging because we haven't prepared people for it, whether it'd be an engineer or a welder," Haslam said.
Many leaders at Tuesday's roundtable said it's tough to find highly-skilled workers, especially in fields involving science and math skills.
Haslam pointed out the state needs more workers such as: welders, engineers and IT professionals.
He hopes to improve the quality of post-secondary education without unnecessary spending. "Part of our responsibility as a state government is that we're allocating the budget in the right way so we're putting dollars toward where the real needs are," Haslam said.
In 2010, the Legislature changed the way it funds higher education, holding colleges and universities accountable for poor graduation rates.
University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said the funding formula was a major step in making sure students graduated in a quicker amount of time.
"Because it rewards the kind of behavior you should have, and doesn't reward the status quo," Cheek said.
Haslam said ideas that he's came up with at the roundtables could very well turn into legislation.
In terms of looking at the scope of future legislation, he said it's too early to say.
As chairman of the Southern Growth Policies Board, Gov. Haslam held a regional meeting in Chattanooga in late June- focused on workforce preparation issues.