Home » Workforce Summit highlights problems and progress in Kentucky’s workforce

Workforce Summit highlights problems and progress in Kentucky’s workforce

Jack Uldrich, Global Futurist
Jack Uldrich, Global Futurist

As Kentucky’s employers are searching for innovative solutions to their workforce needs, the Kentucky Chamber hosted the 3rd annual Workforce Summit Tuesday where employers got an inside look into the strategies being used by other companies, organizations and government entities to address the commonwealth’s workforce crisis.

A report called Kentucky’s Workforce and Progress Challenges, an update of the Kentucky Chamber’s 2017 Workforce Participation Report, made its debut at the summit. The report provides data and concepts to better understand Kentucky’s workforce issues. Click here to view the online version of Kentucky’s Workforce Progress and Challenges report.

To kick off the summit, A Global Futurist, Jack Uldrich, urged businesses to take time and actually think about the future, and be openminded about it. While offering a look into the future of industries like transportation, robotics, 5g and broadband, infrastructure, and public-private partnerships, Uldrich stated something alarming, “65% of students starting elementary school today will eventually work in jobs that don’t exist yet.” He said he cannot think of an industry that will not see exponential changes.

In a session called Reinventing Employer-Led Education and Workforce Partnerships: The Kentucky Story, Workforce and Education Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner said one of their main focuses is finding the link between people, training and jobs, citing Kentucky as 47th in the nation for adult workforce participation. Secretary Heiner shared positive statistics from their initiatives like dual credit opportunities for students, and training and career guidance offered through the Work Ready Skills Initiative and Help Wanted Kentucky.

In another session, Derek Redelman of Strada Education Network explained their findings after surveying Kentuckians about their educational experience. The findings proved a need for change in the education system so students feel more confident about their career path.

Summit attendees heard from two of Kentucky’s largest employers, UPS and Toyota on their challenges, successes and strategies to finding and retaining workforce. Kim Menke of Toyota, a member of the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center Advisory Board, talked about the importance of collaborating with their competitors and suppliers. Menke added public-private partnerships are important to successful TPM systems, to creating more streamlined transitions from education to workforce.

Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) systems were highlighted as a way for companies to have a steady flow of workforce coming to businesses. Employers like UPS have developed partnerships with surrounding universities, but the consensus of the workforce summit was the value to starting earlier. In his presentation, Secretary Heiner encouraged employers to become more engaged in K-12 because he said when students can visualize themselves in a career, something they are excited about, their academics excel.

During the Talent Pipeline Management session, Jason Tyszko from the U.S. Chamber Foundation said Talent Pipeline Management was created because the current system is not working for employers, stating 40% of employers cannot take on new business because they do not have the workforce needed to do so.

Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Terry Gill delivered the keynote address, focusing on role of workforce development in economic success. Secretary Gill explained companies make the decision to locate their businesses quickly, an average of about four to six months. The project requests coming from companies, an average of 8-13 per week, come with a set of qualifications, and an available workforce is always in the top three, Gill said. One of the statistics he shared is “99% of jobs added to the economy in the past 5 years are held by workers with some level of education training after high school,” highlighting the need for Kentuckians to seek a form of postsecondary training to fill the 70,000 positions Kentucky needs by 2020.

In a later session, some of Kentucky’s businesses shared ways they have reinvented talent recruiting efforts.

After the job decline of the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky, Bit Source recruited coal miners to be coders. Rusty Justice, Cofounder of Bit Source, said when they started they were looking for 11 jobs but received 950 applications. Though the jobs would include computer skills, the three main qualifications Bit Source was searching for are capability, commitment and character, the 22-week training course would come after. Justice sees a job as a person’s dignity and “more than just giving them skills.”

Addiction and incarceration were noted as two of the top reasons for Kentucky’s low workforce participation rate, and Tim Robinson of Addiction Recovery Care thanked the Chamber and Governor Bevin for seeing the importance of addiction treatment and second chances for Kentuckians. His organization believes residential addition treatment paired with job training not would not only save lives, but help Kentucky’s workforce challenges and bottom line.

The Workforce Summit encouraged business leaders to take time to think about how the world is constantly changing around them. Businesses have to be innovative in attracting, training and retaining diverse employees. Lastly, businesses must find new ways of engaging the available workforce and attracting talent earlier in the education process.