TDOT workers upset at change in education requirements - WSMV Channel 4

TDOT workers upset at change in education requirements

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Hundreds of state employees discovered that no matter how long they've already been on the job, the job qualifications for what they do are changing. And if they don't change, their jobs might be on the line.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is now going to require all of its 1,700 maintenance workers to have a high school diploma or GED. It's not just a requirement for new hires. The department is requiring current workers to get their GED as well.

TDOT says the reason is simple. It wants to put together a more cost-effective, smarter and more efficient work force on state highways.

But others say this is unnecessarily picking on hard-working people who should not be punished for not finishing their high school education.

"We are very understanding of that, and certainly we are not trying to get rid of anybody. What we've put in place is a two-year time frame to where we're bringing resources in to work with these employees," said TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges. "In two years, if you do nothing and make no effort, then that could be a result."

TDOT is paying for GED training and adds many workers are thankful who say they've always wanted a GED and feel better about themselves now.

Still, some see this as unnecessary. Several TDOT workers have called Channel 4 News upset that they've been able to work, in some cases, for 20 years without a diploma.Tennessee State AFL-CIO President Gary Moore believes this is all unnecessary and plain wrong.

"If they've had a good evaluation, then I can see no reason why a GED would make a difference in job performance. So I would question why they are doing it," he said.

TDOT says the motive is customer service, higher starting salaries and being able to employ promotable people.

"I really believe that in this age we need people with some minimal proficiency in computer skills and being able to understand how things go together, so I think raising the skillset of our entry-level employees is an appropriate thing," Degges said.

TDOT says right now it has 230 maintenance workers on staff who are without GEDs. Opponents of the policy change say there should always be work for hard-working, honest, uneducated people and manual labor has always been one of those options.

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