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Building the Future of East Tennessee’s Workforce

East Tennessee PBS will generate youth regional workforce development opportunity awareness and engagement through a series of videos and a companion digital curriculum.

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Addressing the labor shortage in the Tennessee Valley requires both near- and long-term strategies. There are many effective programs addressing the immediate problem, but few look beyond the five- to ten-year timeframe. These efforts often focus on teens or young adults looking to enter the workforce and maybe only shown via the internet or cable TV ads. Additionally, present efforts do not provide equal access to information that introduces young people to the jobs, skills, and careers needed in the region today and in the future. Engaging the youngest community members and creating awareness about potential future careers and the skills required is necessary for ensuring that the region serves as a pipeline of skilled and trained workers for years to come.

When children understand the correlation between what they are learning and how it applies to everyday life, they will become much more invested in that learning. Career paths are no different. This project will serve primary school students grades K-8, with a particular focus on those five to eight years old. A benefit of this work will be an increased interest in vocational and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career fields by introducing students as early as possible to the regional possibilities and outlining the steps to success. This will help fuel the region’s talent pipeline for the future.

Teacher showing the project





In partnership with the University of Tennessee, East Tennessee PBS will produce a series of 60-second videos for public television broadcast, online distribution, and in-classroom use covering skilled labor and STEM-field career opportunities within the Tennessee Valley. The videos will mix the style and aesthetic of TikTok with the substance of Mr. Rogers to create engaging content that is both enjoyable and informative. Additionally, East Tennessee PBS will craft a companion digital curriculum for teachers, parents, and students to expand engagement around regional workforce development.

Ultimately, this work aims to improve the value students place on their education by demonstrating real-world opportunities that are visible and accessible. By removing barriers like accessibility, students in the Tennessee Valley will be able to connect with various workforce development opportunities in a way that also supports teachers and parents. The project team envisions students’ active participation in the creation of an increased and sustainable labor force through the materials created in this pilot project.


Pilot IllustrationThe objective of this innovative project is to provide all young people in the Valley with resources to connect learning in the classroom with future career opportunities in their communities.

The success of this pilot project will be measured through metrics related to community connections, feedback and evaluations, and online data.

Community Connections

  • Number of schools/school systems engaged
  • Number of community engagement events/activities
  • Number of participants at engagement events
  • Additional PBS stations airing programming and model adoption

Feedback and Evaluation

  • Feedback from Advisory Committee and user group sessions 
  • Community engagement surveys and data collection 
  • Viewer comments and questions
  • Teacher input and engagement

Online Data

  • Page views, engagements, return visitors, and shares
  • Registrations and materials accessed on
  • Email newsletter registration
  • Click-throughs from digital referrals
  • Lesson plans downloaded
  • Online video views
  • Social media engagement

Video Illustration Connected Communities

Key Levers for Success

By leveraging East Tennessee PBS’ trusted broadcast platform and large audience, along with the support of community partners, there is an opportunity to meet both community and organizational goals. The videos created from this pilot project will address the regional long-term workforce development needs through educational programs geared toward children. This program format can be used in the future to introduce children to other concepts, such as civics, government, and more.

The Team

  • Barbara Shipley, East Tennessee PBS program lead, has over 15 years of experience in program development, leadership, management, marketing, and communications. As program lead, Barbara will oversee program/project management and branding and ensure continuity among partners and communication strategies aligned with pilot project goals.

  • Haley Jones, East Tennessee PBS Education Design, Standards and Oversight, is the East Tennessee PBS’ education director. Haley is a former public elementary and middle school teacher with specific experience in urban and multicultural education equity and will ensure that educational content is consistent with state and national education standards, meets educational goals, and is age appropriate.

  • Nick Geidner, Landgrant Films, University of Tennessee — Production Development, is an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. With over 30 years of film experience, Nick will be responsible for the creative, filming, and post-production of every episode of the project.

This pilot project also has an advisory board that will oversee the project and provides feedback on videos. They will also identify in-demand skills or job opportunities for future videos and provide guidance on the companion curriculum that will accompany the videos produced. This advisory board is important for this pilot project as they will help create connections and advertise the pilot project videos with the intent to create future videos.


Next Steps / Timeline

TVA Connected Communities Calendar Icon

East Tennessee PBS is currently finishing filming for the remaining videos for this pilot project. By the end of March 2023, there will be a total of 20 videos highlighting different career opportunities.

Resources / Links

Job Pop Website

  • The Job Pop website highlights the STEM-focused career videos currently airing on PBS and allows viewers to watch the videos anytime they wish.

Early Childhood Education by Television: Lessons from Sesame Street

  • This study examined the link between Sesame Street views and school outcomes later in childhood and found that Sesame Street had a positive impact on educational outcomes.