KCTCS president attends White House meeting on American workers

Dr. Jay Box

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) is supporting President Donald Trump’s call to action by the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board to invest in American workers and expedite the country’s economic recovery.

Jay K. Box, president of the 16-college system, was in Washington, D.C. Friday to attend a meeting of the AWPAB at the White House. He is a member of the board and participates in numerous national and state organizations that are involved in reopening college campuses and businesses.

The central part of Friday’s meeting was to introduce the AWPAB’s report Leading Practices in Modernizing Candidate Recruitment, Hiring and Training to the National Council for the American Worker. Box made a brief presentation touting KCTCS partnerships with groups like the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce that help match training to employers’ needs.

During the meeting, Lawrence Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, discussed the country’s economic recovery. Trump joined the meeting to sign an executive order to ensure government workers will be hired based on skills, not just degree attainment. Two-thirds of American adults do not have a college degree.

“Getting people trained and ready for the workforce is job number one for KCTCS and community colleges all across the nation,” Box said. “We have been working with a variety of groups and employers to make sure we are training and educating people for the right careers in their communities.”

KCTCS has partnered with the Kentucky Chamber to offer “Restart Kentucky,” which calls on employers to post job openings on a Kentucky Chamber website, and KCTCS will provide training opportunities that match those job openings. Restart Kentucky has also provided webinars on topics of interest to businesses across the state as they prepared to reopen.

Since the onset of the pandemic, KCTCS has worked with partners from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Workforce Center, Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board, the Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development, and the Kentucky Department of Education to research the future of work in the state, identify job sectors with the most need of skilled workers, and ramp up training in those areas. The 16 colleges also work with local employers and regional workforce innovation boards to understand needs in every part of the state.

In May, KCTCS received special permission to reopen its 73 campuses to help students complete hands-on training for classes in welding, advanced manufacturing and other programs that are critical to meeting today’s workforce needs. All training facilities followed CDC and state health and safety protocols for COVID-19. The system has had positive participation levels and is hopeful for similar participation in the fall.

KCTCS has a career freeway approach to higher education—stackable credentials with students taking on- and off-ramps from the freeway as they need additional education to succeed in their chosen field.

Colleges offer apprenticeship programs and successful learn and earn programs like the Kentucky FAME program, an industry-led and recognized program in advanced manufacturing that has been replicated nationwide.

“We also offer GED Plus, which allows individuals to earn a GED and a short-term certificate in advanced manufacturing, healthcare, construction, business/IT and logistics/transportation,” Box said. “For some people, this can be done in a few short months.”

Credit for prior learning, particularly for veterans, is a strong focus area for the KCTCS colleges as well.

In preparation for fall, KCTCS has created a Welcome Back Plan that lays out the system’s plan for the fall term to keep students, faculty and staff as safe as possible. Classes will be offered in a variety of formats and in 8- 12- and 16-week options, with plans ready to move entirely to remote instruction should this pandemic response be required.

The system educates more than 100,000 students statewide and is the state’s largest provider of higher education, online classes, dual credit classes for high school students and workforce training.