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State leaders should pursue a bold strategy for rapid workforce growth

The Bottom Line

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bold, comprehensive strategy for growing Kentucky’s workforce is the focus of a new brief released by the Kentucky Chamber Center for Policy and Research, which provides key data and recommendations for state leaders to consider.

The brief noted that after two decades of sluggish workforce growth, demand for workers in the Commonwealth is significantly outpacing supply, leaving Kentucky employers unable to fill open positions. Between 2001 and 2021, Kentucky’s workforce grew by less than three percent. This summer, Kentucky saw 100,000 more open jobs than individuals actively looking for work.

With major investments being made in Kentucky, including the 5,000 new jobs that are projected to come from the Ford Battery Plant in Hardin County, the Chamber says Kentucky must undergo a “workforce transformation.”

“While Kentucky is seeing tremendous private-sector investments, our workforce challenges are creating an unsustainable situation for businesses,” said Kentucky Chamber Board Chair Kevin Smith, vice president of Kentucky bourbon affairs for Beam Suntory. “Kentucky needs a shared strategy for growing a high-skilled workforce to fill the open jobs of today and tomorrow.”

In brief, the Chamber says Kentucky’s strategy for rapid workforce growth should “include retaining Kentuckians already active in the workforce, attracting new workers from other states, and pulling into the workforce Kentuckians sitting on the sidelines.”

The Chamber lists more than a dozen policy recommendations from the Kentucky Chamber Foundation’s workforce report from last year to achieve this growth.

“For decades now, the state has been satisfied with low rates of workforce participation and meager growth in the size of its workforce,” the brief says. “With so many opportunities coming to the state, now is the time for state leaders to build a bold plan to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow and deliver on the promise of a bright economic future for the Commonwealth.”

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