Although there has been scant coverage in the press, lately I have been hearing a fair amount of discussion in Northern Kentucky and elsewhere about skilled labor shortages.
Our public education system is involved with this problem because large numbers of kids are currently getting high school diplomas but cannot demonstrate readiness for anything after school, not college, and not a career, either.
Certainly, the problem is starting to seem serious. I was recently told that robotics-based manufacturers in Northern Kentucky are having such a hard time finding talent that they now are encouraging area business recruiting organizations to stop attracting more robotics operations to Northern Kentucky. The pressure on the existing pool of qualified talent is already too great.
To be sure, this isn’t a very encouraging situation for Kentucky’s economy, to say the least.
As a result of what I’ve been hearing but not seeing in the press, I was particularly interested when the Kentucky Legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education met on Monday, July 18, 2016 to discuss the state’s workforce challenges and to hear from Kentucky Secretary of Education Hal Heiner and others about programs intended to deal with those challenges.
I also got something else at the meeting – more confirmation that Kentucky’s under-prepared workforce is indeed a growing problem. During the question period, Kentucky State Representative Jim Decesare addressed some of the workforce problems he is hearing about in his part of Kentucky. He also cited one of Secretary Heiner’s briefing slides with some grim statistics about the large proportions of recent high school graduates in the state who are not prepared for careers or college.
Maybe the popular media doesn’t want to talk about this stuff, but according to Rep. Decesare, the situation regarding skilled workforce shortages is so bad that some existing Kentucky businesses are now talking about leaving the state. But, I’ll let Rep. Decesare say this for himself.
To this, I’ll just add that we also recently have been hearing a lot from some about great progress in Kentucky education. Somehow that just doesn’t square with the rather grim numbers that worry Secretary Heiner and Representative Decesare.