Education and Workforce Cabinet secretary details progress to come from legislative victories

Education and Workforce Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner says the $100 million bond pool included in the budget for workforce development will bring the state up to speed and details what the state is looking for in partners as they get ready to spend the money.

In an interview with The Bottom Line, Heiner said while the budget process was a “cliffhanger” he was excited to see the $100 million bond requested by Gov. Matt Bevin included in the final budget.

Heiner said the workforce bond pool will help bring much needed updates to many of the state’s workforce facilities which will help attract talent to training programs.

“The goal for this is to ramp up career and technical education whether it is in advanced manufacturing, or health sciences, or IT, or the trades so that the education we are providing, the industry recognized certifications for our students, allows them that when they walk across the high school stage, it’s not just with a high school diploma but it is a certification that allows them to go out into a great job making double or triple what they would have made otherwise,” Heiner said.

As part of the legislature’s agreement to the governor’s request for the bond pool, the General Assembly passed language which set up a structure on how that money would be used, created a board, laid out a process for applications and more including specifications on how much could be spent in each congressional district so that one area of the state did not get preference over another.

However, since the legislature passed the language after the veto period, the governor was able to strike the parameters for the bond issue without the possibility of legislative override.

But while the criteria set out by the General Assembly will not be in place, Heiner told the Kentucky Chamber there will be a seven member board to approve applications and explained where he believes the money will be spent.

“The money is for facilities, equipment and first year marketing to get the word out about the program,” Heiner said (at 1:15 in the interview below). “What we are really looking for is the communities that put together partnerships of both K-12, higher education, employers in the community that say this is really important for us, these are the kinds of training we want in our community, it is important that we move career education ahead. Groups that would have some skin in the game, some dollars invested that the state can come in and help them achieve their goals in their communities.”

Heiner added that he hopes to see these programs train students by day and adults by night to get maximum use of the funds and help prepare more Kentuckians.

Another pot of money included in the budget without parameters after Bevin vetoed the language by the General Assembly is the Work Ready scholarship program.

The budget agreement included $25 million for a “Work Ready” scholarship program which would provide free tuition to students attending one of the state’s community and technical colleges, state university or private college or university to receive an associate’s degree beginning fall 2016. In his veto message, Bevin explained that he is striking the funding for the first year of this program because it will take time to implement, but he left the funding for the program intact for 2017.

Along with that change to the program, Bevin vetoed the language putting the scholarships in statute, meaning the legislature will need to pass that language again in the next legislative session in order for the program to continue.

Heiner said he expects the legislature will take the issue up again in the 2017 session and added he believes more time should be spent on the details of the scholarship program in order to make sure “those dollars are used effectively and promote people going into the jobs that are sitting vacant today,” (at 3:00 in the interview).

Watch the video interview segment here:

Keep checking The Bottom Line in the coming weeks to see more of the interview with Education and Workforce Secretary Heiner on topics including the role he sees business playing in improving education and workforce, dual credit scholarships, and more.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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