Compare the candidates: Bevin, Conway and Curtis discuss workforce issues and job creation

As employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers to fill the positions available, the 2015 governor’s race candidates are talking about their plans to ensure Kentucky has a highly-skilled and educated workforce.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce recently conducted a review of the state’s workforce training and development programs which shows the need for 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.

In response to the recommendation, Republican Candidate Matt Bevin said in a sit-down interview with the Chamber he believes it is a good idea and while how it is accomplished will depend on who is elected, he noted his call for outside audits of many areas of state government as a way to bring transparency to the system.

“I applaud the Chamber for bringing that recommendation forward, I think it would behoove whoever the next governor is to take it very seriously and to look closely at a thorough analysis of things before you start trying to build a new administration,” Bevin said.

Watch the interview with Bevin below and read more about his stance on workforce issues in a previous post on the issue here.

Democratic candidate Jack Conway said workforce is one of the most important issues to him and stated he appreciates the Chamber’s involvement in working to create a better workforce and said he would comply with the request for a review of the system.

“I agree with the Chamber that the cabinet structure needs to be changed. We almost need to step back and say ‘okay, what do we want our workforce to look like?’ And then redesign it and figure out does the workforce development cabinet in its current structure meet our needs. How does the workforce development cabinet interface with the Kentucky community and technical college system? How do we maximize the new workforce innovation grants that are coming? So all those recommendations coming from the Chamber are very well received on our end and when I am the next governor, by and large, I will adhere to those,” Conway said.

Conway noted that businesses looking at Kentucky as a potential location are looking for a strong workforce. He also added that the state has a huge skills gap currently, especially with soft skills which was a finding of the Kentucky Chamber’s workforce report.

In his jobs plan, Conway states he would like to see Kentucky create a coordinated statewide apprenticeship program in order to help the state build a better workforce.

“We have to work with men and women in labor as well as the Chamber to make certain we are designing an apprenticeship program that meets the needs of local employers. And we also need to do a better job of making sure that when kids are 16, 17, 18 that the teenagers and parents understand what opportunities are out there,” Conway said (in a discussion beginning at 2:30 in the interview below).

Hear more about what Conway had to say on the issue of workforce in the video below:

Independent candidate Drew Curtis said he had been thinking along the same lines as the Kentucky Chamber when it came to the idea of an audit of the workforce system and believes the state should bring in a third party to conduct such a review to find out where inefficiencies exist (in a discussion beginning at 6:30 in the video below).

Curtis continued by giving examples of some overlap in the current system he has heard about from business owners in the state.

“As far as the review of state employees, I would like to offer an additional suggestion,” Curtis said. “A top-down review is a good idea. You must also do a bottom-up. And the reason why is a lot of the inefficiency actually exists at the administrative level. So it turns out that if you ask rank-and-file employees how they review their administrators, often times you can find the ones that are completely useless…I would also start on a sub-set of state government first just in case because tackling the entire thing at once is going to be a monster task and things will be learned by doing it on a small scale first.”

In his campaign stances, Curtis states that technology jobs could be a way to attract industry to eastern Kentucky, comparing the region to Boulder, Colorado which is now considered to be a tech hub.

After attending the SOAR conference in the eastern part of the state and hearing an interest in new technologies, Curtis said having someone with a technology background like himself in the governor’s office could help attract that type of industry to the state.

“It requires the input of all three types of people. You need to have the business sector, you need to have the universities and you need government involved and not one single one of those can pull it off themselves,” Curtis said (in discussion starting at 9:30). “The reason why I find that intriguing is because I have been to Boulder, Colorado a few times and it’s really similar to Pikeville…So the way you attract a class of coders is you make a place that they want to live, first and foremost, and then they start showing up. And it can be done.”

To hear more about what Curtis had to say on workforce, including a discussion on some of his experiences in the area and discussions he has had with business owners on the issue, watch the full interview segment below:

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Jacqueline Pitts
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