Lawmakers hear solutions for military hiring and other ways to ensure a diverse workforce

In two testimonies in front of lawmakers on Tuesday, the Kentucky Chamber detailed initiatives by the business community to secure a strong, diverse workforce.

Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts noted the Chamber’s focus on advocacy and working with lawmakers to pass legislation to make Kentucky more business friendly. In addition, the Chamber has a robust Foundation that compliments that policy work and pushes forward on solutions to Kentucky’s workforce issues.

Along with programs like Talent Pipeline Management® connecting business and education, Workforce Recovery to help individuals with substance use disorder reenter the workforce, Bus to Businesses® taking students directly to employers to see opportunities across Kentucky and others, the Kentucky Chamber Foundation is training businesses on many areas of hiring.

The newest initiative of the Kentucky Chamber being launched is a training program for hiring military personnel. Watts told the Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection that survey data shows 35% of military spouses are not employed in Kentucky but want to be, and that the unemployment rate for that group hovers around 21% in a group that is ready to work.

With 200,000 people leaving the military each year, 5,000 leaving Fort Campbell and 500 from Fort Knox each year to return to civilian life, the Chamber is tackling the question: how can we make sure those individuals want to live and work in Kentucky?

Zach Morgan, Kentucky Chamber Foundation program manager, is a veteran and military spouse himself. Morgan said the new Military Hiring Academy is part of a multifaceted approach to Kentucky’s workforce crisis and is based on the Chamber’s successful Fair Chance Academy model, which was started last year and has trained 80 businesses on fair chance practices.

The Academy will put a focus on tangible solutions through in person trainings as well as a required trip by employers to a military job fair.

The Kentucky Chamber Foundation has also been taking steps to help companies find and partner with minority-owned businesses across the Commonwealth.

In a testimony to the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity, Watts and Equity Solutions Group Co-Founder and CEO Ray Daniels detailed the Chamber’s work to ensure the business community was doing its part to improve equity in the state. That has included hosting a similar hiring academy to help businesses tackle diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as workshops across the state to help minority-owned businesses get certified to be listed on the Foundation’s Minority-Owned Business Database, a first of its kind one-stop shop to find all certified minority-owned businesses in Kentucky.

Additionally, the Chamber has hosted an annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit to bring business leaders together to hear and learn from experts.

Daniels, who chairs the Chamber’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, pointed to the Chamber’s report, “Achieving Equity to Build a Stronger Kentucky,” and the challenges and opportunities facing the Commonwealth including economic opportunity, education, and more. He said there is a growing number of businesses started by minority entrepreneurs who hire within the community, spend within the community, and are huge asset to their local areas, which is why it is important to make sure they are competitive with pricing and address any barriers in their way.

To do that, he says it requires companies and groups like the Kentucky Chamber to come to the table to help address issues and present new opportunities.

Learn more about the Kentucky Chamber Foundation programs here.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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