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New report sets an ambitious agenda for education-workforce improvement


December 4, 2018
Kentucky Chamber

Moving Kentucky into the Top Tier of states in education attainment and workforce quality is the focus of a new report released Monday (December 3, 2018), by the Kentucky Business-Education Roundtable. The Roundtable, comprising state education and business leaders and advocates, has developed an ambitious agenda to accelerate Kentucky’s progress by achieving four key goals:

  1. Investing in early childhood and preschool – to give kids a solid start
  2. Reinventing high school – to make a diploma relevant for the modern economy
  3. Ensuring every adult obtains a marketable degree or credential
  4. Engaging employers to define needed skills and develop talent supply chains

“Because Kentucky’s economic future depends directly on our state’s ability to produce and attract more talented workers for the modern economy, we must strive year over year to improve our workforce preparation and our rankings in critical measures of education,” the report noted.

The report defines what it would take to achieve Top Tier status – to be first in the nation in improving the alignment of Kentucky’s talent development systems with employment opportunities and among the Top 10 states in critical measures of educational preparedness. It offers recommendations under each of the four goals, acknowledging that some of the gains will take a generation to achieve.

The recommendations include the following. A complete list of recommendations and additional details can be found in the report, “Striving to be Top Tier for Talent: Average Isn’t Good Enough.”

Early Childhood and Preschool—

  • Give more at-risk children access to high-quality preschool services
  • Coordinate resources and practices among all public and private early childhood providers and school districts
  • Ensure quality evaluation of early childhood programs
  • Develop early literacy programs that target assistance for students who fall behind

High School–

  • Eliminate achievement gaps between groups of students
  • Expand school and career counseling to provide more information on postsecondary education options, career benefits and student debt
  • Revamp high school graduation requirements to ensure a diploma has real-world value
  • Provide more work-based learning opportunities for students as well as the opportunity for students to achieve postsecondary credits or credentials

Marketable Degree or Credential—

  • Shorten the amount of time it takes a student to complete a course of study after initial enrollment
  • Align career pathways with high demand workforce areas to help students navigate easily to completion
  • Increase participation of GED-seeking students enrolled concurrently in career pathways programs in the Kentucky Community & Technical College System
  • Create greater transparency around college costs, student loans, savings plans and financial aid

Engage Employers—

  • Communicate the urgent need for greater engagement to employers via business and trade associations
  • Develop partnerships among employers and educators to identify needs and quantify progress in expanded employer engagement
  • Encourage employer involvement in regional and sector collaboratives

As this work proceeds, the Roundtable said, “We must take immediate action to address the current workforce challenges that are stifling the creation of quality jobs for Kentuckians.” Such steps should include customizing programs to attract more adults to academic and technical training programs; focusing on credentials in areas where good jobs are available and unfilled; and targeting marketing and information campaigns to encourage people to expand or enhance their workforce participation.

The report addresses the challenge of striving for progress in a state with limited public resources. “Increased revenue resulting from economic growth and additional resources, wisely invested, will be necessary for Kentucky to enlist all employable adults in meaningful work, to avoid downstream costs (such as prisons, welfare, addiction), to build a higher quality public education system and to produce more and better talent for our economy and society,” it noted.

The Roundtable will continue its work in the coming months to set priorities for policy and programmatic changes, determine the resources that will be needed to support the work and engage other stakeholders in defining specific needs and considerations.