When business and industry site selection consultants come to Kentucky seeking potential locations to launch or expand operations, invariably they ask one question first: Is a skilled workforce available?
But the answer previously would be subjective at best – precisely quantifying a labor force’s skill level was difficult, if not impossible, for Kentucky’s economic development agencies, chambers of commerce and industrial foundations.
Local officials open the Joseph U. Meyer Center for Workforce Development on Madison Avenue in Covington on Nov. 7, 2014, one week before Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties were jointly certified as a Kentucky Work Ready Community. Operating previously at a different location as the Kentucky Career Center, in 2013-14 it made 5,300 outreach contacts to businesses, posted 5,766 jobs for employers, provided career training to more than 500 people, and helped 21,133 job-seekers obtain 12,452 jobs with an average wage increase of $16,929.
Not anymore, though.
A program first developed nearly a decade ago by a college entrance exam company to assess fundamental work skills has gained acceptance among site selectors, and the commonwealth was one of the first to incorporate it into its economic development communications strategy.
Kentucky’s Work Ready Communitiesinitiative, launched in 2012, gives city and county officials a tool to inform potential employers about talent levels and preparedness of local workforces in a nationally recognized and quantifiable way.
Work Ready certification “gives us a lot more validity when we’re talking to site selectors and potential employers,” said Roxann Fry, an economic development consultant with theTennessee Valley Authorityand chair of the state Work Ready Communities panel charged with reviewing community proposals for certification.
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