Stephanie and Todd Schaible: How Licensing Puts Tennesseans Out of Work


June 6, 2022 11:36AM

Stephanie and Todd Schaible moved to Tennessee from Utah in 2014. While in Utah, Todd worked as a carpenter and moving back home to Tennessee was a choice Todd made for his family, as his parents were getting up there in age and needed more care close to home. Todd has led a very interesting life. He served 4 years in the United States Air Force as a structural specialist where he furthered his education and training in carpentry and general building maintenance. He is a Gulf War Veteran and used his carpentry skills in the U.A.E. during Operation Desert Shield/Storm from the fall of 1990 to the spring of 1991. He also used his skills working for the State of Utah and started his own home remodeling business.

Todd was given the opportunity to teach carpentry at his local high school. It’s always been a dream of Todd’s to teach a career technical class, and getting to give back to the community that gave so much to him was a natural fit. Until the government got in the way, that is.

You see, Todd was licensed in carpentry in Utah for years, passing exams that demonstrated his competency with no gaps in employment. But in order to teach CTE classes in a high school in Tennessee, Todd would be required to attend courses through UT Martin in the Professional Occupational Licensure Program at a cost to him of around $5,000. As a matter of fact, some counties in Tennessee don’t even require carpenters to hold a license to do what Todd does (In some counties, Tennessee requires a general contractors license for anyone who does $25,000 jobs or more. The courses he was required to take are for being a licensed educator, not carpentry.) It begs the question: why wouldn’t someone’s experience in a trade be enough to certify them to teach that trade to others in a vocational education program? 

After talking with Stephanie and Todd for a few weeks about what they’d been through, I received an email from Stephanie which read as follows: 

“Just wanted to let you know that Todd was not able to work something out with the school system in regard to the licensing requirements for him so he has put in his resignation. He just couldn’t justify having to take college classes and pay $5,000 for them. He’s disappointed that things didn’t work out because he was able to generate some interest in his class with quite a few kids for next year, and now he’s not going to be there, but it is what it is.  His CTE director told him that things are changing, but that changes are always slow in coming… The school year is winding down and Friday was Todd’s last day with students which was very difficult for him.”

At Beacon, we do a lot of work on licensing issues, demonstrating through research why reform is necessary. But it is not until you hear stories like Todd’s that you realize how harmful it is on the workforce—and the work prospects and dreams—of Tennesseans. As noted in our recent research report, “licensing in Tennessee affects 263 different occupations, affects 30 percent of Tennessee’s workforce, costs Tennessee workers over $279 million just to enter an occupation of their choice, and costs these same Tennessee workers nearly $38 million per year to renew their existing licenses.”

If we are serious about getting Tennesseans back to work, and in the trades that align with their experience and qualifications, occupational licensing reform is a clear path forward.