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Employment Roadblocks

An analysis of workforce data associated with the population experiencing poverty in Memphis identified several factors that inhibit employment pathways. Below are the most significant roadblocks supported by the evidence.

Academic remediation

Post-secondary attainment

Uncoordinated Systems

Aptitude Alignment





Basic Needs

Uncoordinated Policies

Employment myths

An analysis of workforce data identified a lack of evidence to support several common perceptions about employment in Memphis. Below are several employment myths for the population experiencing poverty:

8 in 10 high school graduates do not demonstrate readiness for post-secondary education or a career. In Memphis, a high school diploma does not ensure sufficient math and reading proficiency to enable the pursuit of training needed to obtain living-wage jobs.

Only 1 in 5 tnAchieves scholarship recipients in Shelby County graduate within three years. While financial assistance for tuition is valuable, numerous incidental expenses can undermine the benefits of tuition support.

Only 30 percent of industry credentials earned by Tennessee K-12 students are associated with jobs that pay at least $15 per hour. Credentials are not helpful when they are not aligned with high-wage, high-demand jobs.

The rate of people experiencing poverty who are not working but seeking employment is 50 percent higher in Memphis than Tennessee. Identifying the needed workforce services in accessible locations is frequently insurmountable.

Only 1 percent of neighborhoods in Memphis are considered location efficient, i.e. compact, close to jobs and services, with a variety of transportation choices. Greater investments in public transit alone is not sufficient.

Population Snapshot

Demographic data was analyzed to provide an objective understanding of the population experiencing poverty in Memphis to help inform why employment pathways are not working.

Insufficient math and literacy proficiency impede entry to and success in technical training

An estimated 100,000 Memphians experiencing poverty are in need of academic remediation to access career & technical education that can unlock living-wage jobs.

“We had to administer a literacy test in our application process because a high school diploma was not sufficient to know if candidates could comprehend the training manuals.”

Robert Montague,
Executive Director, Tech901

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