AllianceBernstein, others back citywide program to grow Nashville’s talent pool

One of Nashville’s newest corporate recruits is chipping in for a recently launched program to build Nashville’s talent pipeline.

This week, the mayor’s office announced a slate of donations to Nashville Getting Results by Advancing Degrees (GRAD), the city-sponsored program designed to cover the costs of community college not included under the state’s Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs. AllianceBernstein LLP (NYSE: AB) and Piedmont Natural Gas both donated $100,000 to the program, matching what HCA Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: HCA) donated in March. Other newly announced donors include: Bank of America ($50,000), Tennessee Titans ($50,000), Verizon ($25,000), Memorial Foundation ($25,000) and an in-kind donation from Southwest Airlines.

“The Nashville GRAD program promises to be an engine of student success and economic growth in the city and Middle Tennessee,” Seth Bernstein, CEO of AllianceBernstein, said in a statement. “AB believes it is important to have a positive impact in the communities where we live and work. We are excited to support this program, which will create a positive change in the lives of students in our home city.”

Championed by outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect provide free community college tuition to high school students and adults, respectively. Metro’s new program, unveiled by Mayor David Briley in December, is designed to go one step further by covering a variety of expenses, from textbooks and supplies to transportation and industry-certification fees, according to the mayor’s office.

Building a stronger workforce is a top-of-mind issue for Nashville’s business community, particularly as the city prepares to absorb thousands of new jobs in the coming years while navigating record-low unemployment levels. That pressure has prompted some companies to get creative in training and retaining workers. For instance, Inc. will invest $800,000 to endow a computer science professor at Tennessee State University in an effort to start establishing its own pipeline of diverse prospective employees.

Briley committed $1 million to the GRAD program in Metro’s upcoming budget, with plans to increase that amount to $2.5 million in next year. To be sure, Briley currently is vying to remain in the mayor’s office, and if he isn’t re-elected, it’s not clear if his opponents will continue the program.

Nashville GRAD is open to full-time students at Nashville State Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville. For its initial year, officials hope to bring 300 students into the program, according to Thomas Mulgrew, the mayor’s spokesman. That’s 10% of 3,000 students that official hope to annually serve.

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