The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has conducted a review of the state’s workforce training and development programs which shows the need better coordination, greater accountability and more employer involvement.
Kentucky’s Workforce Challenges: The Employer Perspective states that achieving those and other goals detailed in the report’s recommendations will require a top-to-bottom review of the entire system – a review that the Chamber believes should be ordered by the next governor.
The new workforce report, which follows a year’s review of the state workforce system by a Chamber-organized group representing employers from different sectors and geographic regions, shows the need for big changes to the system that will require the work of both business and government to help the state move forward by expanding and maintaining a highly skilled, competitive workforce.
The report noted that Kentucky has made strides in improving the education of its citizens, but challenges persist in the area of workforce development. Those include:
- Insufficient involvement by employers to make changes in training programs that address demand-side needs
- A lack of clarity about the community-level service delivery of state programs, particularly in regard to which agency or individual is in charge
- The need for greater communications and outreach to employers and job seekers about available programs, how to access information, the need for specific training and skill development, and related issues
- Ongoing issues related to the governance, management and coordination of workforce programs
- The need for improved employability skills, or soft skills, such as attendance, communication and teamwork, among job seekers
- Increasing difficulties in finding drug-free job applicants
- Inconsistent use of credentials, by employers, job seekers and educational institutions
- Insufficient coordination among educational institutions, economic development agencies and workforce programs
The review by the Chamber came in response to many Kentucky employers struggling to find qualified workers and job seekers having trouble finding openings that fit their qualifications, and many in the state experience frustrations with the workforce system and the outcomes it is producing.
The report included the following recommendations to improve Kentucky’s efforts to create and sustain a high quality workforce. From the report:
To address issues related to organization, funding, accountability and governance and to effectively engage employers:
- As Kentucky’s next governor takes office, his first act in support of job creation and retention should be to order an organizational and management review of the state’s workforce training and development system. The review should be conducted by an independent entity not aligned with any Kentucky program and should define the specific governance, management, and operational structure that would best meet the needs of Kentucky employers and workers. The governor should be personally involved with this review before finalizing the cabinet structure of his administration.
- Kentucky should develop and maintain an asset map – updated regularly and released publicly – that identifies all funding sources and provides a framework for accountability for state and local spending and results.
- Agreements that guide the operation of local workforce areas (known as interlocal agreements) should include provisions requiring that the dominant business organization or association in the area be responsible for naming employer members of the workforce boards.
- The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce should issue an annual assessment of whether local workforce boards are engaging employers in meaningful and productive ways.
- State workforce officials and business leaders should jointly develop a structure to ensure meaningful employer participation in the development of Kentucky’s state and local plans under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and employers should actively participate in state and local workforce boards and committees to implement WIOA.
- The Governor should direct set-aside funds under WIOA to support the development of employer-led collaboratives to guide workforce initiatives.
- The state’s business community should develop a focused voice on workforce issues to advance the interests of both small and large employers.
To promote what is available:
- State workforce officials and business leaders should jointly develop and implement an outreach campaign, that includes local chambers of commerce, economic development corporations and workforce boards, to raise awareness of workforce programs.
To address issues related to employability:
- Kentucky should develop and incorporate soft skills/work readiness certification into its College and Career Readiness requirements for schools, including regular assessments to ensure the demonstrated proficiency of these skills.
- Kentucky should continue and expand its support for quality early childhood programs as a workforce development strategy.
- As Kentucky continues to expand drug treatment and prevention programs, it should incorporate drug screening into the application process for workforce training programs.
To strengthen the use of appropriate credentials:
Business organizations and chambers of commerce should develop working groups of employers to identify, by sector, credentials that best reflect the skills needed for successful performance in the workplace.
The report will also be outlined and discussed by a panel of experts at the Kentucky Chamber’s 10th Business Summit beginning Monday, July 27. See the full agenda and register for the event here.