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Transatlantic Cities of Tomorrow in North Carolina and Tennessee

From September 15 to September 21, the ACG kicked-off the second round of exchanges for its Transatlantic Cities of Tomorrow: Digitalization and the Future of Work initiative, a three-year reciprocal exchange for thought-leaders in small- and medium-sized cities in Germany and the U.S. to develop solutions to common challenges resulting from digitalization and to identify innovative approaches to turning these challenges into opportunities for their local workforce and economies.

The second round of the exchange engaged 10 Americans from Charlotte, Knoxville, and Nashville, and 10 Germans from Halle, Magdeburg, and Leipzig. Similar to the first round, the cohort included education and workforce development specialists, information technology experts, and representatives from economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, incubators, and city government.

During the program in Charlotte, the group had meetings with Charlotte Works, Charlotte Metropolitan Schools, and Central Piedmont Community College to learn about technology-oriented workforce training initiatives, career pathways, and talent development. The importance of digital literacy training and inclusion was highlighted with Digital Charlotte and the great work of their stakeholders like E2D, Inc. – Eliminate the Digital Divide which strives to ensure that all students have affordable access to essential at-home technology. Charlotte’s sustainability efforts and utilization of smart technologies were highlighted at Envision Charlotte and the City of Charlotte’s Innovation & Technology Department and Sustainability Office. A great overview of the city’s efforts to attract companies and talented workers was provided by Charlotte Center City Partners and the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

While in Knoxville, the delegation had the opportunity to learn about the key role community and technical colleges play in providing students with industry training during visits to the MegaLab at Pellissippi State Community College and Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Knoxville. The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce highlighted Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, the region’s economic development partnership. Visits to the Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility at UT-Knoxville and to Local Motors, a vehicle manufacturing company utilizing an open-source design process and 3-D printing, demonstrated the innovative techniques in additive manufacturing that are transforming production processes.

The week concluded in Nashville with a number of engaging panel discussions on workforce development, information technology apprenticeships, and the start-up and innovation culture of the city. Representatives from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Department of Labor, hubNashville, and Google Fiber highlighted local efforts to create talent pipelines, workforce access, and training opportunities to better fulfill the high demand for technology-related jobs in the region. During a panel hosted by the Greater Nashville Technology Council, the delegation learned about ApprentiTN, a technology-focused apprenticeship program that engages YouScience, the Nashville Software School, and local businesses like 3-D Technology Group to quickly train and connect individuals for the technology workforce. Visits to and meetings with The Wond’ry – Vanderbilt University’s Innovation Center, the Tennessee International Trade Center, Nashville Entrepreneurship Center, Launch Tennessee, and the Nashville Innovation Project demonstrated the collaboration among institutions in Nashville to enhance the city’s capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship, economic development, and sustainable job growth.

In all the cities, the delegation was impressed by the supportive and collaborative ecosystems that promote community-based action and innovation to address each city’s challenges and opportunities, often with stakeholders looking optimistically to transformation and the future. An additional insight was the strong human-centered focus of strategies and a priority placed on digital inclusion. One key takeaway by both the Americans and Germans was the continued need to expand digital literacy awareness and training to ensure people can take part in the workforce of the future and see the opportunities available to them. In November, the delegation will meet again for a week-long reciprocal visit to Magdeburg, Halle, and Leipzig.

Transatlantic Cities of Tomorrow: Digitalization and the Future of Work is organized and administered by the American Council on Germany with generous support from the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through funds of the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi). This project is also administered under the auspices of the Deutschlandjahr USA 2018/19 – Year of German-American Friendship.