Labor Sec. Ramsey says the time is now for state to bolster apprenticeship program

09/21/2016 09:50 PM

FRANKFORT — Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey is pushing hard to match more potential employees utilizing a long developed but often forgotten program of apprenticeships.

To pair more work-ready employees with employers, Ramsey and his team are traveling the state and challenging the culture against vocational programs.

As the former UK quarterback looks across the hills and hollers of the Bluegrass, he sees a commonwealth ready to receive the apprenticeship initiative, and he is calling the play.

“As you look at Kentucky and you look around the country — this middle class we’ve enjoyed in this country for years is gone,” Ramsey said pointing to the “absence of the skilled worker” as a main reason.

“With this apprenticeship what we’re looking at is, one, opportunity,” he continued. “Second is for us to be able to put people into not only jobs, but careers.”

A positive of apprenticeships, Ramsey says, are the minimal costs of the programs, some of which are free.

Part of what Ramsey and employees at the Labor Cabinet are doing is essentially targeting the culture behind the skilled trades. Over the last four decades, Ramsey says the vocational programs have been “stigmatized out or squeezed out.”

“What we’re doing is looking for the opportunity,” Ramsey said. “Not to steer folk away from academia — that’s not what I’m saying. … What we’re providing is just another opportunity.”

Recent economic reports paint a picture in Kentucky of a lopsided recovery following the 2007 recession. The state lost nearly 50,000 jobs after the financial crisis, mainly in areas outside of the so-called “golden triangle” of Louisville, Lexington and northern Kentucky.

West Kentucky will benefit from the apprenticeship program, but Ramsey said eastern Kentuckians face unique challenges due to the Appalachian region’s geography and infrastructure that are not found in other areas.

“We’re going to work tirelessly to ensure that where apprenticeable opportunities are, we’re going to take them to those regions,” Ramsey said. “I know in the west, know there are a lot of things we have going now with businesses there.”

“What’s interesting is that in the east when you think of coal mines, it’s not that shovel anymore,” he continued. “You have these people who are using all kind of robotics and different machines, so we’re hopeful that some of those skills are transferable — not necessarily in coal mines, but with other industries.”

Ramsey is also working alongside Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley to reach an entirely different forgotten demographic — inmates. Tilley and Ramsey are working to start apprenticeship education programs for low-level, non-violent felons who may very well qualify for expungement.


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