Kentucky Counties Strive to Become Work Ready Communities
Kentucky counties are striving to become Work Ready Communities, to show relocating companies that their workforce is well trained.
Kentucky is taking skills-ready workforce availability to a higher level with a new certification program.
The Kentucky Workforce Investment Board, in conjunction with the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, has launched a Work Ready Communities program that certifies counties as Work Ready or Work Ready in Progress. The certification is based on the quality of a county’s labor force and the community’s commitment to continuous workforce improvement through education.
A half-dozen communities have been certified and several more are in progress, with counties having up to three years to meet the criteria overseen by the state. To be certified, communities must meet criteria that include attaining at least an 82.3 percent high school graduation rate, enlisting support of local government and economic officials, and having broadband Internet access available to at least 90 percent of households.
“Being Work Ready shows existing and relocating businesses and industries that a county has a strong, well-trained workforce in place,” says Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson. “With a college degree, nationally, it's a 3 percent unemployment rate. If you dropped out of high school, it's a 15 percent unemployment rate, so you don't have to be a rocket science to understand. You're going to be a liability to the community in which you live if you don't continue your education.”
Madisonville Community College Has 25 Top Programs
Hopkins County is one of several counties in Kentucky looking to become Work Ready certified. Hopkins County-based Madisonville Community College is working with city leaders, county officials, chamber staffers and economic development officials to become a Work Ready Community.
“I had my entire college staff take a National Career Readiness Test to prepare for the Work Ready push, then went to several businesses to inform them of how advantageous it is to be a certified community,” says Dr. Judy Rhoads, president of Madisonville Community College. “We already have an excellent Workforce Development Department on campus that is ranked one of the best in Kentucky, so preparing students and employees for attractive careers has long been our focus.”
Rhoads says a Work Ready Community in Progress was exemplified in 2012 when supermarket chain Kroger gave a skills test to 500 area employees, then set up classes at MCC to provide them with better training.
“Education is a key factor in earning a Work Ready Community distinction, and at MCC we now have 25 top programs that put students immediately into jobs when they complete their one-year or two-year studies,” she says. “For example, we have nine health sciences programs and 25 nursing instructors, plus we have 100 students enrolled in our advanced integrated technology program. MCC is also working with 200 employers and their employees to eventually make Hopkins County a Work Ready Community.”