In a presentation to the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education Monday afternoon, Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson explained workforce needs are now center stage for the business community as employers are unable to find qualified workers to fill the jobs they have available in the state.
In his presentation, Adkisson referenced the Kentucky Chamber report, Kentucky’s Workforce Challenges, that was published last year and examined where the state is and where we need to go to build and sustain the skilled workforce that will make Kentucky globally competitive. As noted in the report and stressed by Adkisson at the meeting, Kentucky employers struggle to find people with the right skills for the jobs they have available while job seekers encounter frustrations as they try to find the right job to match their skills.
Adkisson told lawmakers that adopting approaches to education policy that improve communication between employers and our education systems would be highly beneficial. “Strengthening these partnerships will lead to policies that help schools understand how to better prepare students for success and businesses understand how to effectively use existing programs.” He said.
Including “soft skills,” very basic skills needed by employees in the workplace like communication, personal responsibility, and teamwork, in the state education system’s accountability model, is something Adkisson also encouraged policy makers to consider. He pointed out that the workforce report noted that a 2014 survey that showed improving soft skills among the workforce was the highest-rated need cited by employers – at 27 percent of the respondents.
Watch video testimony from Adkisson in the video below:
Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Hal Heiner along with KY FAME Chairman Kim Menke, also addressed the committee about the state’s workforce needs.
Secretary Heiner echoed much of what he told the Kentucky Chamber in his interview with The Bottom Line, praising the passage of funding for dual credit scholarships, explaining the investment strategy of the $100 million bond pool for workforce, and creating an equal playing field for all higher education.
Kim Menke with Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky, explained to the committee that Toyota struggled to find workers with the right skill set to be successful. The company developed the KY FAME (Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education) program which is a partnership of manufacturers and local education institutions in order to educate, train and employ workers. Students in the program earn an associate degree and two years of relevant work experience with no tuition debt, and manufacturers are directly involved in preparing future workers. “Graduates from our KY FAME program are the best trained and more well-rounded,” said Menke.
Stacey Hughes with Logan Aluminum and president of the Southcentral KY FAME program, emphasized that the program has enabled the manufacturing sector to raise the reputation of manufacturing across the state. Referring to manufacturing facilities, she said, “It is not dirty, dark and dangerous anymore. These are wonderful jobs.” She went on to explain that the starting salary for a maintenance technician is $60,000. “You can raise a family on that salary.”