To better understand the magnitude and complexities of Kentucky’s workforce struggles, as well as the policy remedies available to state leaders, the Kentucky Chamber Foundation released a report “20 Years in the Making: Kentucky’s Workforce Crisis,” that details the Commonwealth’s long and short-term workforce issues and stresses the urgency of building a strong workforce to drive a strong economy.
With so much focus on workforce issues brought on by the pandemic and the economic recovery, the report shows it is more critical than ever that decision-makers fully recognize the history of Kentucky’s workforce crisis, the multitude of factors that led to it, and why addressing it must be a top priority.
“Kentucky’s workforce challenges are exceptional, but they did not suddenly emerge in the age of COVID-19,” said the report’s author Kentucky Chamber Senior Policy Analyst Charles Aull, PhD. “Rather, they have been building and holding back our economy for at least two decades. There is no one singular cause of these challenges. Instead, the causes are many, and the solutions must be, as well.”
Some of the highlights of the report include:
• The percentage of Kentucky adults working or actively looking for work has been trending downward since 2000 and has remained consistently below national averages and neighboring states both before and after the pandemic.
• The causes of Kentucky’s weak workforce participation rate are many, including demographic change, poor health outcomes, substance abuse, incarceration, among many others.
• Policymakers must pursue multiple, bold solutions to build a stronger workforce and, in turn, a stronger Kentucky economy.
Kentucky’s economic future depends closely on whether or not policymakers in the years ahead take the appropriate steps to solve the Commonwealth’s longstanding workforce challenges and address these issues with the resolve they require, the report concludes.
“With more than 100,000 open jobs in Kentucky, our workforce participation ranking at 48 in the nation, and companies like Ford investing billions in our state, there has never been a more pivotal time to address the workforce crisis,” said Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts. “We call on the legislature and state leaders to study this report and put a plan in place to tackle the report’s recommendations.”
The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) is a sponsor of “20 Years in the Making: Kentucky’s Workforce Crisis.” With the report’s release, KCTCS President Dr. Paul Czarapata said: “Now more than ever, we must come together as a state to address our workforce shortage. It is imperative that employers and educators partner to ensure alignment of supply and demand. KCTCS stands positioned to collaborate with companies across the Commonwealth to develop customized, rapid response talent pipelines.”