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Workforce development survey shows Kentucky needs more skilled workers

Results of Bridging the Talent Gap survey

VERSAILLES, Ky. (May 25, 2017) — Results from the Bridging the Talent Gap survey show that Kentucky business expansion and job growth look good, but employers say there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill those jobs. Currently, there are 51,000 open jobs in Kentucky.

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 2.52.24 PMThe Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management (KYSHM) and the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS) sponsored the survey, which received responses from nearly 1,100 businesses.

One finding of interest to KCTCS was 70 percent of employers who said they don’t currently have a partnership with education said they would be open to pursuing one. That’s good news for KCTCS colleges, which have partnerships with local businesses through either offering classes to meet ever-changing needs, or providing training for incumbent workers through Workforce Solutions programs.

The 16 colleges are focused on making sure students are coming out their programs ready to step into a job in their communities. In some cases, this means earning a credential in a short-term program. Many of these programs can be completed in four months or less and lead to careers that pay higher salaries than some requiring bachelor’s degrees.

However, offering programs alone will not totally solve the problems employers are having. There are other issues at play when it comes to finding the right talent to fill job openings. An average of 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day in the U.S. Another barrier to educational attainment is the perception that there’s little value to higher education.

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 2.53.32 PMKCTCS recently conducted its own statewide research with 3,000 Kentuckians. Findings show the majority of adults surveyed with little to no postsecondary education are not interested in taking college classes. This cultural issue is a key reason Kentucky is 47th in workforce participation. Currently, 165,000 Kentuckians are not going to work every day.

Dr. Paul Schreffler, KCTCS vice chancellor for economic development and Workforce Solutions, served on a panel for Monday’s unveiling of the Bridging the Talent Gap survey results. He said changing culture is a long process and compared it to the country’s attitudes toward smoking.

“Years ago, this conference room would’ve been filled with ashtrays, and we would’ve thought nothing about people smoking during the event,” Schreffler said. “Today, we laugh about it, but it truly has been a cultural change that was years in the making. The same will be true in changing attitudes about the need for postsecondary education.”

Some other findings from the Bridging the Talent Gap survey revealed:

  • Respondents said the economic outlook in their community was positive.
  • Manufacturing, healthcare and professional/scientific and technical services are the job sectors that project the most job growth.
  • Government and agriculture were the sectors projecting the smallest amount of growth.
  • Forty-one percent of respondents said they needed workers with certificates in their fields, the same number as those who said they needed employees with bachelor’s degrees.
  • Although many employers offer tuition assistance, 71 percent said their employees are not taking advantage of it because they said they don’t have time.

To see the full Bridging the Talent Gap survey results, visit BridgingtheTalentGap.org.