Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

President’s Message: Confronting the workforce crisis

October 07, 2021

Aaron Thompson

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.

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.

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Aaron Thompson, Ph.D.

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Last Updated: 10/12/2021