Business and education leaders discuss prioritizing the future success of students on KET Forum

Beth on KETAs workforce continues to be one of the most pressing issues in Kentucky, Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center Executive Director Beth Davisson appeared on Pathways for Tomorrow’s Workforce: A KET Forum to discuss what’s being done to prepare students for success in the workplace.

Alongside Davisson on the program were Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis and Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey.

Ted Abernathy, Kentucky Chamber consultant and Managing Partner of Economic Leadership, was also featured during the forum, pointing out that Kentucky’s workforce has a quality gap as well as a quantity gap, and adaptability is required from all sides to address the rapidly-changing workforce.

“We’re not being realistic on what people need to learn and why they need to learn it to be positioned for the future,” said Abernathy.

Host Renee Shaw stated 62% of jobs in the Commonwealth by 2020 will require postsecondary education and training, naming the top industry sectors for growth as construction and trades, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, business and IT and health services.

Davisson explained the rapidly-changing workforce has made employers realize their role in students’ lives goes beyond corporate citizenship and is now being seen as a way to develop talent pipelines.

Commissioner Lewis noted the Kentucky Department of Education is working on initiatives to get students to intentionally think about their careers earlier.

The forum focused on initiatives such as career pathways and apprenticeships that have been created for students to get hands-on work experience before getting out of high-school. Secretary Ramsey stressed the importance of students seeing and experiencing the workplace.

Aside from the technical skills that are important to employers, Davisson said “essential skills is the number one workforce priority…we hear our employers say time and time again, they can train a technical skill, but if you can’t get an employee to show up on time, pass a drug screen, have grit, be a team player, there’s not much you can do.”

Davisson commended the Chamber-priority legislation passed in the 2018 session that will teach kids essential skills from kindergarten through high school.

Now, students are not only competing locally, but also globally, said Secretary Ramsey. “For us to be competitive, we need our kids to be prepared for what happens next.”

Watch the full Pathways for Tomorrow’s Workforce: A KET Forum here.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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