United We Stand: Kentucky’s Signature Industries Team Up with Talent Pipeline Management Program in a New Approach to Workforce Solutions

As Kentucky’s signature industries have experienced difficulty in finding talent over the past few years, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Foundation Workforce Center’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) program has partnered with the equine, distilling, and energy industries to solve their workforce challenges in a systematic way. Through TPM these business leaders have worked together and examined data to build strategic solutions that are already benefiting their industries.

TPM is an employer-led and demand-driven method to create and manage talent supply chains. Businesses make projections of their talent needs and then find alignment with education and workforce development systems. Through TPM’s facilitated process, employers in these three industries collaborate to gather accurate workforce data, examine current talent pipelines, and ultimately, co-engineer solutions with workforce and education partners across Kentucky.

Three Statewide Industry Collaboratives EstablishedThe Equine Workforce Development Initiative is a joint effort between the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Keeneland, and the Chamber to address the shortage of skilled equine workers across the state. This project started in the fall of 2018 with funding from KEEP and leadership from Keeneland. There are currently four collaborative groups of employers, including non-racing Bluegrass farms, thoroughbred farms, veterinary clinics, and equine transportation.

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) launched a TPM pilot project with the Chamber in March 2021. Employers are currently examining demand projections for 11 unique positions. This employer collaborative includes 15 distilling companies from across the state.

In May 2021, the TPM Kentucky also convened a statewide collaborative in the energy industry with the help of the East Kentucky Power Cooperative. Eleven power companies have formed this group, and they are currently analyzing seven critical positions.

Across these three initiatives, the TPM team has completed or started analysis for 31 critical jobs. Critical jobs are positions that companies must have filled to operate efficiently. Sometimes collaboratives choose to focus on positions that have the most openings, but often jobs that are difficult to fill are deemed more critical. The analysis of collaborative data helps employers choose where to focus.

“We are excited to expand our standard region-based model to include these statewide collaboratives,” said LaKisha Miller, Talent Pipeline System Director. “The equine project has been here since the beginning, and it serves as proof this can work. I think Kentucky TPM is a perfect example of the concept: ‘Workforce isn’t something you solve, it evolves!’ We have adjusted to new information derived through TPM data, and we have found ways to adapt our collaborative work to statewide initiatives. We are currently partnering with education, workforce partners, and state government to create a lasting impact on Kentucky’s workforce.”

Equine Industry Takes the Lead

The equine TPM initiative, now in its third year, is furthest along in the TPM process with four equine collaboratives. There are 43 employers engaged, and programs and solutions are being implemented in various industry sub-sectors. There are also industry-wide, large-scale solutions in action that reach a variety of populations across the state.

“The momentum we are seeing in the business community with TPM today comes from a clear need for new solutions and a proven track record with this program,” said John Greene, Director of Human Resources, Keeneland Association, Inc. “Kentucky’s signature industries are in good hands, and Keeneland is proud to be a key sponsor of the TPM initiative.”

“The positive results seen from the Thoroughbred Farm Collaborative group are ever-evolving,” said Gonzalo Maluenda of Lane’s End Farm. “We are continually excited to be part of the work moving forward. From community engagement and education to retention strategies and concrete data collection, collaborating with a group of like-minded equine employers has helped to make our voice stronger and reach a broader audience to address our workforce challenges.”

Distillers, Power Providers Join the TPM Process

Currently, both the distillery and energy collaboratives are creating their critical job demand projections. Upon review of their demand projections, the employers will decide which positions to focus on moving forward. The next step is to examine the competencies and credentials required for these positions. Then they will examine where talent pipelines already exist or could be developed. Using all of this fresh and targeted data, they will work with education and workforce training partners to build the talent pipelines.

“TPM works, and we know it works,” said Kevin Smith, Vice President, Kentucky Bourbon Affairs, Beam Suntory. “It has been done already throughout the state, and it has been going for at least two years now with great results. What is so fantastic about TPM is it really puts us in that supply-and-demand analysis mode and gives us real data for what is needed and a plan on how we get it. This collaborative within the Kentucky distilled spirits industry will bring focus to help identify our most challenging talent development needs and guide us to find the best way to meet the demand, creating a stronger foundation for the future of one of Kentucky’s premier signature industries.”

The TPM process accommodates companies of all sizes, large and small because the data is aggregated. Industry numbers are examined as a whole, rather than by individual company reports. This feature allows large employers to validate their data and voice and helps small businesses to benefit from the signal boost of joining numbers with their neighbors.

“We are excited to have this collaborative up and running,” said Teri Lacy, human resources manager at East Kentucky Power Cooperative. “Across our entire industry, the rural power cooperatives and the investor-owned companies all have difficulty filling our open positions with the talent we need. I am hopeful that this program will help us boost our collective voice as employers. We want to show people from Kentucky they don’t need to leave the state to have a great job, and they can be part of the change that is creating our energy future.”

The Kentucky Chamber is committed to meet today’s workforce challenges head-on so that the business community and Kentuckians can thrive. Learn more about this work at https://www.kychamber.com/WorkforceCenter.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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