Work experience now counts for more with City of Chattanooga employees

Ken Smith.
photo Chattanooga City Councilman Jerry Mitchell

Long-serving City of Chattanooga employees now have fewer obstacles to advancing their careers when it comes to measuring experience against college degrees.

The City Council recently approved a measure that calls for certain city jobs requiring a degree to allow "an equivalency of relevant education, training and/or experience to satisfy the minimum qualifications of those positions." The new policy does not apply to positions requiring a degree or certification to actually perform specific job responsibilities.

Robert Ledford, chief steward of the Chattanooga chapter of Service Employees International Union Local 205 and an electrician at the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant, offered praise for reducing barriers to advancement.

"Having a degree can be one indication of talent and ability, but it is not the only, or necessarily the best, predictor of success on the job," Ledford said in an email. "We are very pleased that our members who have dedicated their lives and careers to serving the City of Chattanooga will now have their institutional knowledge recognized and counted in the application process."

Councilman Ken Smith, who co-sponsored the legislation with Councilman Jerry Mitchell, said after a recent meeting the new policy seeks to remove undue burdens on employees who have dedicated their lives to Chattanooga and want to go to the next level.

"I'm all in favor for opportunity for our city employees, especially when it comes to advancement, and an unnecessary barrier was something I was looking to remove," Smith said. "I would argue that nobody you're going to hire straight out of college could even come close to being able to doing as good a job as them just because of the level of experience. In fact, they've probably been doing a significant portion of that job for many years already."

The new policy will allow employees who otherwise could not apply for a higher position to get on the playing field with those who qualify because they have a degree, he said. Those employees, even with decades of experience, may not have the means or time to go back to school just to get degrees so they can advance their careers.

"It doesn't guarantee the job, but it guarantees you're not going to have that barrier to prevent you from competing for that job," Smith said.

Mitchell could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.