Work Ready Skills Initiative will make Kentucky “manufacturing hub of excellence,” Bevin says

07/13/2016 05:37 PM

FRANKFORT – With $100 million budgeted in the current biennium for bonds to improve workforce development in Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin and other cabinet officials unveiled on Wednesday a new program to dole out those funds.

The Work Ready Skills Initiative will link educational institutions and private businesses in partnerships aimed at improving work readiness throughout the state, Bevin said at a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda.

The governor noted that Kentucky currently ranks 47th nationally in workforce participation, reflecting a complaint Bevin says he’s heard often from industry leaders.

“I do not meet with a company, with almost no exception, where the topic does not come up almost immediately, and that is, ‘I’ve got to find good, qualified people who are skilled, who are sober, who will show up on time and have the ability to help our company grow,’” Bevin said. “If we get this right, and we will get this right because we must get this right, then the Commonwealth of Kentucky will be the manufacturing hub of excellence.”

The Education and Workforce Development Cabinet will accept pre-applications for the next 30 days before a nine-person panel selects proposals for a second 30-day application period.

Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner — part of the nine-member board that includes secretaries of the labor and economic development cabinets, chair of the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board, three employers appointed by Bevin and one appointment apiece by Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo — said his agency hopes to make money available to winning proposals in November.

Proposals will require at least a 10 percent match from bidders, and Heiner said each will be scored based on specific criteria.

Some of that criteria will include prospective returns on investments and long-term prospects for submitted proposals, Bevin said.

Bevin offered a hypothetical proposal that would link regional employers with a local university or community college to offer skills training and certifications that are universal to local industries.

“It might involve building a freestanding facility that is funded in some way by these folks,” Bevin said.

“An expectation that we have that we will be looking for is involvement from that business community. It is involvement to the degree that they actually have skin in the game. Maybe it’s equipment. Maybe it’s their lending expertise in terms of training. Maybe they are providing some of the overhead costs, but our expectation is that the private sector have skin in the game.”

Bonds issued through the initiative will not be capped, and Bevin said at most he could see a project seeking 20 to 25 percent of the bond pool. Most, he said, will fall into the five- and six-figure range.

Bevin said he appreciated the bipartisan support from the legislature, which included the $100 million bond pool in the two-year budget passed this year.

He hopes that the program will be successful so that future funding “will be a no-brainer” for lawmakers as they craft the next biennial spending plan in 2018.

“If not a cent of it is spent, it’s because not a cent of it deserves to be spent, and that won’t bother me, but I’ll be disappointed if we don’t find a way to wisely invest every single cent of this,” Bevin said.

Information about the program will be available on the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet’s website at

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.