A story in Tuesday’s paper about the Kentucky Community and Technical College System’s Plan for a Competitive Commonwealth that was unveiled Monday night at Bowling Green Technical College reports what can be described as an ambitious plan by KCTCS President Dr. Michael McCall to increase the number of students enrolled in the state’s community colleges between now and 2020, with the ultimate intention of having more workforce- and higher education-ready Kentuckians across the state and an economy that will be more competitive with other states.
The plan can be found online here.
In the course of putting together this plan, McCall consulted CEOs all over Kentucky, asking them about the economic and workforce challenges they face now and must contend with over the next decade.
The main concerns for the next five years expressed by business leaders include locating qualified employees, dealing with increasing health care costs and ensuring that the state’s educational system is effective and affordable.
Add to those concerns that of a declining workforce overall.
According to projections released in 2005 by the U.S. Census Bureau, Kentucky’s working age population (defined as ages 25-44) will decline by eight percent from 2000 to 2025, while citizens 65 years and older will increase their numbers by more than 64 percent.
This demographic trend has business leaders understandably concerned that the working-age population will have received enough training and education to perform the nursing, teaching, information technology and other essential jobs on which many rely.
Twenty-four Barren River area CEOs, representing the health care, manufacturing and skilled trade industries, participated in the dialogue sessions with McCall.
Among the local findings recorded in McCall’s report, “In the Eye of the Storm: Confronting Kentucky’s Looming Workforce Crisis”, were these:
— The 24 participating local leaders think the top economic development issues facing Kentucky currently are offering competitive tax incentives to capture new companies, available and affordable health care and meeting global competition challenges.
— The health care, automotive and manufacturing industries, in that order, were considered the most important to the region’s current economic success. Meanwhile, health care, education and manufacturing currently face the most significant workforce development challenges.
— Over the next three years, Barren River CEOs believe the top challenges facing the region’s business and industry are a lack of a sufficient pool of qualified workers, escalating health care costs and growing and diversifying the industrial base.
— The top seven occpational areas in which Kentucky faces the most severe shortages, in the eyes of the 24 local CEOs consulted for McCall’s study, were medical technical professions, skilled manufacturing, mechanical and other engineers, information technology, teaching, nursing and industrial maintenance technicians.
— The top three operational obstacles impacting competitive efforts are, in order, limited work ethic/employee loyalty, increasing costs of material and supplies and recruitment of qualified employees.
— The top three challenges to building a next generation of Kentucky community leaders are, in order, the lack of a formalized program to recruit and train new leaders, building a committed workforce with a strong work ethic and teaching community above self in schools.