Cabinet official stresses importance of well-trained workforce for state's economic growth

08/17/2017 01:46 PM

FRANKFORT — Officials with the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet say that there are still thousands of skilled jobs which have gone unfilled in Kentucky because of a lack of qualified workers, and training the people to match those job skills remains the number one goal for the cabinet.

Brad Montell, the agency’s deputy secretary, told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment on Thursday that providing an educated workforce is the biggest key to growing economic development across the commonwealth.

“We look at what is going on in our state right now and all of the exciting things that are happening, all of the announcements that we hear about, and there’s just a lot of exciting things going on in the state,” Montell said. “Nothing will kill that momentum quicker than if we do not have a skilled workforce to fill those jobs that these employers want to bring.”

Montell warned committee members that close to 100 percent of the new jobs being created in the nation require some kind of post-high-school education to perform those jobs.

According to the National Skills Council analysis of Bureau Of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics by State in May of 2015, 58 percent of the jobs in Kentucky are at the middle-skill level, 27 percent at the high-skill level, while the shrinking low-skill jobs, which are usually performed by a person with a high school diploma or less, is at 15 percent.

Montell warned that the low-skill job market is shrinking rapidly, which shows the need for postsecondary education.

“Nationwide, if we take every 100 new jobs that are created, only one is a low-skill job,” Montell said.

One of the ways the state is getting high school students ready for the job market is by blurring the lines between high school and college and offering dual credit classes while teens are still in high school to earn college credit.

Enrollment in dual credit courses in Kentucky high schools has increased dramatically
over the past two school years.

“If you look at how we did the first year, 51 percent growth in student enrollment from school year (2015-2016) to the last year (2016-2017),” Montell said. “We have to engage these students before they leave high school. Studies show that if they experience some level of success in high school in postsecondary work, whether it’s a welding credential or an English 101 course, they’re much more likely to continue their education beyond high school.”

Other programs geared towards creating an educated workforce include the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative, which will help train over 29,000 individuals with an average expected wage of $34,413; the Work Ready Scholarship, administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, which offers tuition for up to 32 credit hours for a job certification in more than 60 careers in five high-demand industry sectors; Help Wanted Kentucky, which made $15.6 million available for job certification scholarships; and the Kentucky Work Matters Task Force which develops policies and reviews practices that make the workforce more inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities, people who have been incarcerated, and citizens who have successfully battled substance abuse.


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