President’s Message: Confronting the workforce crisis
October 07, 2021
Kentucky is in the midst of a workforce crisis. While we've seen stories in the national media, the Kentucky Chamber's newest report brings it home and arms us with data we can’t ignore.
We have 100,000 open jobs in Kentucky, and our state ranks 48th in the nation for workforce participation. COVID-19 worsened the problem, but it’s an issue that has been building for more than two decades, driven by low educational attainment and missing links between education, employers and the labor market.
That’s why the Council is working to enhance ongoing, open communication between industry and higher education. We collected input from hundreds of stakeholders while developing our 2022-2030 strategic agenda, which is our guiding policy and accountability framework, and employers were an important part of that process.
We’ll be rolling out the new agenda this fall alongside several initiatives that will help move the needle on student success and strengthen our state’s workforce and economy.
- This month we are launching the Kentucky Student Success Collaborative—the first statewide center in the country to work with both two- and four-year institutions to improve college completion and workforce readiness. The Collaborative will help position Kentucky as a national leader in developing strategies for student achievement.
- We awarded grants to three Kentucky public universities to support programs that expand the number of K‐12 teachers from underrepresented groups. The funds will be distributed among Western Kentucky University, the University of Louisville and Northern Kentucky University. I look forward to supporting their work to eliminate disparities in education.
- The Commonwealth Education Continuum will release its report in December with recommendations for increasing equitable access and success in early postsecondary experiences, increasing teacher diversity, and strengthening career readiness as students transition to the workforce.
Our newest initiative to advance this work is a partnership with Complete College America (CCA). Supported by a $550,000 grant from Lumina Foundation, the project will help strengthen connections between labor needs, degree and certificate programs, and students’ career goals.
CCA’s Purpose First strategies aim to help incoming college students identify their interests, define their goals and create a clear plan for achieving them. We know student success begins by arming students with the information they need to make informed choices about higher education and learn about the options that will be open to them when they graduate. A robust onboarding process and sustained, intentional guidance will prevent students from wasting time pursuing the wrong academic path, which can delay graduation, cost more money and even cause students to drop out.
I’m proud of our ongoing work preparing student pathways to the workforce, and we are doubling down on those efforts this year. The good news is that jobs are waiting for those who pursue them. The postsecondary community needs to help light the way.
Last Updated: 10/12/2021