On Tuesday, the Kentucky Work Matters Task Force, formed in 2017, revealed its report focusing on helping people find employment and be a part of the workforce in Kentucky.
Members of the task force commended the partnership between the Council of State Governments, headquartered in Kentucky, the Kentucky Department of Labor, and the Disability Employment Policy and their State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED).
Dave Adkins, Executive Director and CEO of The Council of State Governments, said Kentucky is the first state in the nation to convene a task force of this kind. “It’s a win-win,” said Adkins. “We know that when everyone, regardless of their background their geography, their gender, their disability, can come to the workforce, employers benefit, a state’s property grows, and our nation is ultimately able to fulfill its promise of all people being created equal.”
Adam Meier, Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Matt Bevin, said the recommendations made by this report provide the opportunity for Kentucky to succeed.
The report focuses on populations:
- People with disabilities
- Veterans (with emphasis on service-disabled veterans)
- Foster Youth
- Individuals with Criminal Records
- Individuals with Substance Abuse Disorders
Meier stated the following statistics on Kentucky’s workforce issues:
- Approximately 39,000 Kentuckians are incarcerated in a state correctional facility or county jail
- More than 306,000 Kentuckians are receiving some form of social security disability payments
- Approximately 300,000 Kentuckians have serious alcohol problems
- 20% of inmates in correctional facilities were convicted of a drug-related crime and
- Kentucky has one of the nations highest rates of death due to drug overdoses and a high opioid prescription rate.
Gov. Matt Bevin mentioned Kentucky’s low unemployment rate and increasing workforce participation rate, up 20% in two years, which means Kentucky has to look at other areas of the population for employment.
Foster youth being one of the five focus areas for employment opportunities, Gov. Bevin stated there are 9,000 children in the foster care system, with hundreds leaving the system at age 18 every year. Health and Family Services Secretary Cabinet acting Secretary Scott Brinkman explained what Kentucky is now and will be doing to prepare foster children to become adults and to enter the workforce.
Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley thanked the legislature for passing legislation in 2017 to cut down on recidivism and allow for an easier transition back into the community, which he says is a model being used around the country. He stated, “We have between 160,000 to 200,000 open jobs at this very moment, and if we can’t connect those 16,000-18,000 returning citizens to those jobs, we’re not doing our job.”
Adkins commended the task force’s initiatives and said “they are the right thing to do because they respect the dignity of humanity. They’re the right thing to do because they’re good for the bottom line, they enhance and progress prosperity, and they position a state to take full advantage of its labor force. Today we live in a world where there are jobs that are going wanting. And, a smart governor recognizes you can’t just be about creating jobs, you have to be about creating skilled and talented people who can take those jobs. And this effort marries all of that together.”
The business community was represented on the Kentucky Work Matters Task Force by Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center Executive Director Beth Davisson.