State launches $100 million Work Ready Skills Initiative


Gov. Matt Bevin and Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner recently announced the launch of the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative. This new $100 million statewide bond program is aimed at developing a highly trained, modernized workforce in the Commonwealth to meet the needs of employers and promote sustainable incomes for Kentuckians.

“As I travel the state, I hear repeatedly from employers about the shortage of workers with the skills needed to get the job done,” said Gov. Bevin. “Making this problem worse, is the fact that Kentucky’s workforce as a percent of its population is currently one of the smallest in the nation.

“We must work diligently to be more economically competitive and create more jobs. We intend to make Kentucky the manufacturing and logistical center of excellence in America. This will start with having the most highly skilled and well trained workforce in the country. To accomplish this, we will better align our education systems and our workforce needs. This is exactly why we have created the Work Ready Skills Initiative.”

This bond fund infuses resources to expand career and technical education facilities and to upgrade equipment in those schools to current and future industry standards through local partnerships between private industry and educational institutions. The locally driven initiatives will train and educate workers to meet the workforce needs of Kentucky’s employers now and in the future.

“The Work Ready Skills Initiative will bring industry together in partnership with educational institutions like KCTCS (Kentucky Community and Technical College System) to propose workforce training projects that lead straight to jobs,” said Sec. Heiner. “Proposals will be detailed and require industry to come together with the regional community and provide a local source of funds to match the state’s investment.”

The initiative was passed and funded by the General Assembly in the recent biennial budget and will be administered by the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet with support from the Cabinet for Economic Development. Proposals will require at least 10 percent match by local partners. Applications will support locally developed projects that include the participation of a private employer, educational agency and other interested local and regional partners, so that the plan is tailored to the workforce and industry needs of the area.

“From the perspective of our cabinet, the number one factor in growing Kentucky’s economy is the availability of a skilled workforce,” said Erik Dunnigan, acting secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. “We have been working with — and are committed to continuing our partnership with — the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to create an atmosphere where companies can find qualified people and qualified people can find quality careers.

“Work Ready Skills Initiative is an opportunity for the private sector and government partners to jointly ‘move at the speed of business’ to determine best practices for providing world-class training and then implementing those best practices in Kentucky. We applaud the efforts of our joint team in this worthy endeavor.”

The initiative will be overseen by a nine-member board, which will include the secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, the secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development, the secretary of the Labor Cabinet, the chair of the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board, three employers nominated by the Governor, one member nominated by the Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives and one nominated by the President of the Kentucky Senate. Technical support will be provided by the staff of the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority.

“The economic future of Kentucky is bright. As we develop an employer-led skill and career development system, we move away from the old days of ‘train and pray’ that the training might lead to a job, to a strategic plan equipping Kentuckians and industries with the skills to compete globally and build a stronger Kentucky economy,” Heiner said.

For more details on the Work Ready Skills Initiative or to download a pre-application, visit the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet website at http://EducationCabinet.ky.gov/KY-Work-Ready-Skills/.

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