Home » Thomas Zawacki named new Education and Workforce Development Secretary

Thomas Zawacki named new Education and Workforce Development Secretary

Brings decades of workforce administration and support to role

FRANKFORT, Ky.  (June 14, 2013) – Gov. Steve Beshear today named Thomas Zawacki of Georgetown the new secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet effective July 1.

“Tom has a deep understanding of the skills employers need to build successful businesses, and he brings both public and private sector experience to the table to help us meet those needs,” Beshear said. “We must be responsive to the needs of a changing and growing economy, and I’m confident that Tom will be an essential part of guiding our strategy.”

The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet is the bridge between the world of education and the world of work. It coordinates P-20 learning programs and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department of Workforce Investment. The cabinet employs nearly 3,000 full and part-time workers with an annual budget of $2.5 billion.

Zawacki spent more than 33 years in the auto industry, including stints at Nissan and Ford before joining Toyota. He was one of the original members of the American team that started Toyota’s largest plant outside of Japan in Georgetown in 1987, and retired as general manager of general affairs for Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing America (TMMA) in 2009.

He is a past chair of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) Foundation, Inc.; the KCTCS Board of Regents; the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Georgetown Community Hospital; and the Lexington-Fayette Urban League. Zawacki also served on the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board from 2009 to 2013.

Since 2009, Zawacki has served as commissioner of the Department of Vehicle Regulation in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

“To attract new jobs and new industries, we must have the right training and education in place to support a flexible and adaptive workforce,” Zawacki said. “I’ve devoted much of my career to building strong partnerships among employers, workers, educators and communities, and I look forward to the opportunity before me in the cabinet. I appreciate the Governor’s confidence in my work, and we will continue the good work of his administration.”

Zawacki replaces outgoing Secretary Joseph U. Meyer, who announced his retirement earlier this week.

The Education and Workforce Development Cabinet has played critical roles in modernizing the unemployment insurance system in the commonwealth, establishing the Early Childhood Advisory Council, merging the state’s Career and Technical Education systems to place academic emphasis on career skills, and creating the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics.

Through its work with the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board, the cabinet has implemented programs such as WorkReady Communities and Industrial Partnerships to directly address skills gap issues. These workforce investment improvements have been recognized nationally as a model for other states to better equip workers and serve employers.

The cabinet works alongside the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to promote continuity of education and supports numerous education initiatives for all ages. KDE provides resources, curriculum and support for the state’s 174 school districts and more than 1,200 public schools, and the Education Professional Standards Board issues and renews certificates for all Kentucky teachers and administrators.

As of 2012, the cabinet also is in charge of licensing and regulating proprietary schools other than four-year colleges that offer bachelor degrees that operate in Kentucky through the Kentucky Commission on Proprietary Education.

The cabinet also oversees Kentucky Educational Television (KET) and the Department for Libraries and Archives as part of its mission to promote life-long learning for all Kentuckians.