Essential skills education critical for Kentucky workforce, House Leader Shell says

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell spoke with Kentucky Chamber's Jacqueline Pitts.
House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell spoke with Kentucky Chamber’s Jacqueline Pitts.

With Kentucky employers struggling to find qualified workers to fill the jobs they have available, House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell tells The Bottom Line he will continue to push legislation that would provide essential skills education in the state.

Essential skills, which many employers identify as the ability for applicants and employees to show up to work on time, the ability to pass a drug test, be dressed properly for an interview and for work, be able to work well on a team, make eye contact, and even a proper handshake, are things many Kentucky businesses have a hard time finding in individuals.

House Majority Leader Shell sponsored a bill in the 2017 session to ensure students are receiving those skills and will again sponsor the legislation in 2018. In a Facebook Live interview with The Bottom Line Tuesday, Shell said he hears from employers often about the fact they can train technical skills in the workplace but the essential skills gap continues to be a huge issue.

“If you’re an employer, if you’re at the job, a lot of times they see that our generation that’s coming into the workforce today doesn’t actually have those essential skills, those soft skills put in place of working well with others, of being able to take instruction from their employer, from showing up to work, and if they show up to work, at least show up to work on time, to be professionally dressed, to do all the things that we just consider to be common sense or soft skills are lacking in the workforce today,” Shell said. “And the number one thing that employers are talking to me about, they’re talking to you about, and my guess is the ones who are watching on Facebook Live, and those employees at these workplaces are saying is that getting people in the generation that’s coming into the workforce today to pass a drug test is the number one issue that they have.”

Through the conversations he has had with employers, Shell says the ability to pass a drug test is the main struggle for many businesses he’s spoken to. And even if they do pass the drug test, many employers find that once an individual is employed they lack these basic skills to perform well in their role. Because of this, Shell said, the legislation could be key to helping young people be more prepared for employment.

“The way that we’re looking at trying to do this through, not necessarily government intervention, but being able to give the tools to our educators and school systems to do this is we have some great teachers across the state, absolutely phenomenal teachers across the state; we have some of the greatest school districts in the nation here In Kentucky,” Shell said.

“They recognize, they see, teachers on a daily basis see that these soft skills are missing, and when they try to institute these things, we as a state should be able to give them the credit that they deserve in the accountability system, so we encourage that to happen. And we have some great school systems across the state that are currently doing this. We should be incentivizing our school districts and our teachers through giving them the credit they deserve for the accountability they are putting in place.”

Shell noted that the essential skills bill passed out of the House with a 78-100 vote during the 2017 session and said there is more momentum and discussion happening on the bill ahead of the 2018 session, pointing to a meeting Oct. 9 at Toyota to talk about essential skills.

“We have more and more school districts that are coming on board and supporting this, and more and more business organizations and businesses throughout the state that are coming on in support of this,” Shell said. “I think the train is rolling in such a way that we have the momentum to finish this one this year.”

Watch the interview segment with Shell on Facebook here.


For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line blog.

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