State education officials announced Tuesday the selection of Tennessee as one of seven states participating in a new network focused on career preparation for high school students. 

The network, called Pathways to Prosperity, is in collaboration with national education nonprofit Jobs for the Future and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. For its initial phase, the program will focus on two regions scores the state, including Hamilton County and Southeast Tennessee.

The program will seek to promote partnerships between schools and leaders in the business and industry sectors, similar to existing education programs for area manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Wacker. The network hopes to address unemployment in students without high school or college diplomas by combining academics with a strong technical education for a skills-based job.

Danielle Mezera, assistant commissioner for career and technical education at the Tennessee Department of Education, said the state chose to focus on Southeast Tennessee first because of the already-existing partnerships between industry and educational institutions in the area.


“If we can provide high-quality education in secondary and postsecondary institutions, we’re hopefully creating a strong pipeline between education and the needs of industry,” Mezera said. “We need to have really good alignment, rather than misalignment, to develop programs that will help grow the workforce that we need to have.”

Along with companies like Volkswagen, local students involved with the initiative will be partnered with the Public Education Foundation, Chattanooga State Community College and the Tennessee Technology Center at Chattanooga.