Building a Better Workforce Pipeline

We don’t have a jobs crisis in the world, we have a skills crisis. In fact, a recent study by McKinsey & Company found that 45% of U.S. employers say that lack of skills is the “main reason” for their high numbers of entry-level vacancies.

We knew that in 2007, when our 26-county region began work on the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development initiative (Wired65). Our primary goal back then was to help develop a more effective workforce pipeline, one where the needs of employers were more in sync with what the education and training providers taught. Sounds easy, right? Easier said than done!

Early College and Career CenterMore recently, some folks in Hardin County decided to do something about this problem, and on January 24, in what Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson called a one-of-a-kind partnership, Hardin County Schools (HCS), Western Kentucky University (WKU), Central Kentucky Community Foundation (CKCF), and Elizabethtown Community & Technical College (ECTC) announced that, working together, they were going to build an Early College and Career Center for Hardin County Students.

To be constructed on 20 acres adjacent to ECTC and WKU’s Elizabethtown Campus, the center will be convenient for high school students in Hardin County Schools to take courses in several career pathways. The pathways include, but are not limited to, health science, engineering (the Project Lead the Way curriculum), manufacturing, automotive technology, media arts & communication, and culinary arts & hospitality services—the current needs of local business and industry.

“We have heard loud and clear from our business partners that they are longing for workers with the ‘soft skills’ and work ethic skills to be successful in our community,” said Nanette Johnston, Hardin County Schools Superintendent. “Our vision is to continue to work collaboratively with our community and business partners and our post-secondary partners to create classroom experiences that parallel the real world.”

The partnership’s “aggressive goal” is to have the new facility open and operating by August 2014. That’s going to be a tough deadline to meet, but with the way this energized group is collaborating and working together to overcome obstacles, we won’t be surprised at all if they meet it.

“This is a wonderful example of a community coming together,” said CKCF President & CEO Al Rider. “We’re meeting the mandate to provide career-ready workers to local business and industry, while building compelling new strategies and partnerships.”

And the “winners” will be the students in Hardin County and a region that will continue to grow and prosper, all thanks to cooperation, innovation, and forward thinking!