ron-opinion-2016KENTUCKY (2/11/16) — Kentuckians need to wake up and become educated about what Frankfort has done and is doing.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky has debt and liabilities that are now strangling our universities and community colleges.

The Kentucky General Assembly has chosen to ignore the funding shortfalls of Kentucky’s various retirement systems. The liabilities of these systems have grown to the extent that Kentucky’s credit rating has been downgraded.

To adequately fund the promises made to Kentucky retirees, Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed dramatic changes in funding for Kentucky universities and community colleges. The results of these cuts (amounting to millions of dollars for each community college) will result in higher tuitions, less financial aid for low income students and therefore fewer students graduating.

Western Kentucky already has one of the lowest percentages of workforces having post-secondary degrees. Recent budget cuts are already causing lower graduation rates from community colleges in Kentucky.

KCTCS president Dr. Jay Box seeks to rally support for community colleges in an effort called “Fuel the Force.” Box seeks public support in putting a halt to the budget cuts. There are strong reasons for Kentuckians to heed his call.

In a recent report conducted by The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the short story is “In these times of too many people without jobs and too many jobs without people, workforce has emerged as a key public policy issue. Many Kentucky employers struggle to find people with the right skills for the jobs they have available while job seekers encounter frustrations as they try to find the right job to match their skills and abilities.”

In FY2015, state and federal funding of workforce programs exceeded $900,000,000 in Kentucky including KCTCS and Workforce Development Act and Basic Support Grants. With this kind of money flowing, why aren’t Kentucky workers faring better?

There are two top suspects.

The first is that educational institutions are training people in skills that are not marketable in Kentucky (or anywhere else occasionally). Bevin’s proposal on “outcome based funding” for post-secondary schools is intended to address this issue. These parameters have not been defined and may not address the problem.

The second suspect is that workforce development programs create enormous bureaucracies that have little accountability. In Kentucky, we have at least nine of these bureaucracies getting state and federal tax dollars for workforce development.

The answer to the first question is addressed by the chamber report and encourages employer engagement in the various workforce development:

"Transparency about funding and verifiable results are key to ensuring quality. Beyond those elements, Kentucky employers need a workforce system that:

  • Responds efficiently to employers’ needs for workers by employment sector/industry/skill set.

  • Is driven by accurate data on employers’ hiring needs.

  • Provides flexibility in training and retraining programs.

  • Is accessible and user-friendly for employers.

  • Provides clear, coordinated information on available public programs and supports.

Employers and state workforce officials agree that direct employer involvement would strengthen the creation of such a system, and business participation is emphasized in federal legislation that guides workforce programming. On paper, Kentucky’s system would appear to encourage such involvement. The reality, however, falls short."

The answer to the second question is as obvious as the first: Consolidate the myriad of Workforce Development schemes to one program that is transparent, verifiable and with accountability for measurable results.

Moving these dollars to KCTCS for management and implementation would dramatically improve KCTCS funding, allow local employer engagement, allow better oversight by the General Assembly and governor and significantly increase the number of Kentucky workers with post-secondary credentials.

Call your legislator and let him or her know that you want action and you expect action on meeting the needs of our existing and future workforce. Or, you can just share this article with them.

Ron Sanders
SurfKY News



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