Study shows growing need for STEM, IT workers in Tennessee 

NASHVILLE — There is a high demand for workers with STEM and IT expertise across Tennessee but not enough skilled workers available to fill these positions according to a new report released today by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The report highlights that the national trend of baby boomers retiring from the workforce will impact the skills gap in these disciplines.

TNECD released its annual Labor and Education Alignment Program (LEAP) report, a statewide and regional study of occupations in high demand based on labor shortages in high quality jobs throughout Tennessee. The evaluation identifies occupational gaps by focusing on key metrics such as growth, median wage, online job postings, hires, job openings and educational program completions. 

The Center for Economic Research in Tennessee (CERT), TNECD’s reconstituted research division, created the report in cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

“Far too long students have graduated with degrees that they cannot get jobs in while at the same time, businesses cannot find the skilled employees that they need. The problem is businesses and community leaders and their partners in education aren’t communicating and aren’t aligned,” TNECD Commissioner Randy Boyd said. “The entire country has the same problem, but here in Tennessee we are doing something about it. With data by region showing exactly where the unmet need is, our business, education and community leaders can work together to precisely and clearly bridge these gaps.”

LEAP is a statewide program to assist post-secondary institutions in producing skills and credentials that Tennessee employers need through alignment of education and industry. LEAP is the result of legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris.

Many of the occupations identified in the report are within Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and IT fields, denoting a skills gap and need for increased postsecondary completions in these knowledge-intensive areas.

Twenty five occupations were determined to have high employer demand relative to low workforce supply statewide. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) outlined educational pathways for these 25 occupations, which can be found at the end of the report. 

The LEAP report also references future retirements of the baby boomer generation, and the skills gap implications the retirements will have on the nation’s workforce. Jobs with labor market gaps and a high share of workforce over age 55 are highlighted throughout the report.

Boyd said CERT would become more of a statewide resource for policy makers, providing key research to support informed decisions and strategic competitiveness in economic and community development. Publications will include industry papers and directories, cluster research, occupation and industry trends and data visualizations. 

“We are excited to share CERT’s research with economic and community development stakeholders throughout Tennessee,” TNECD CERT Director Sally Haar said. “As a department, we strive to create high quality jobs for Tennesseans, and CERT will support this vision to allow Tennessee to capitalize on economic growth potential in a competitive marketplace.”

For more information on the LEAP report and CERT, visit


About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

Tennessee was named 2014 and 2013 “State of the Year” for economic development by Business Facilities magazine. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies which help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. Find us on the web: Follow us on Twitter: @tnecd.  Like us on Facebook: 



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