Viewpoint: Embracing workforce development

By Nicole Cobb

Workforce development is good for employers, employees and the economy

We may not agree on much, but everyone agrees on the critical importance of equipping hardworking Americans with the education, technical training, and much-needed skills to succeed in the workplace and help our economy do the same.

Don’t believe me? The United States Senate passed a resolution recognizing September as National Workforce Development Month for the second year in a row.

This bipartisan push can’t come at a more crucial time.

Right now, there are more than 10 million job openings in the United States that are unfilled according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s June 2021 report. Many of those jobs — especially in the advanced manufacturing, construction, and information technology sectors — are vacant because of a lack of well-qualified candidates.

As associate vice president of workforce solutions for Jefferson Community & Technical College, I am committed to preparing our students and every worker to succeed in high-demand, highly skilled professions by partnering with proven businesses that are making our country strong. From President Ty Handy down, the entire Jefferson community is united in this effort.

We’re making it happen through dynamic public-private apprenticeship partnerships like KY-TRAINS.

Established by the Kentucky General Assembly, KY-TRAINS provides funding to companies and corporate cooperatives to help offset the cost (75/25 match) of creating a customized, technical training curriculum. In the process, we are instilling in current and potential employees the leadership skills and hands-on experience to succeed at work and beyond.

Equally as important, KY-TRAINS is good for a business’s bottom line.

Ask any hiring manager, and they’ll tell you that recruitment and employee retention are among the costliest aspects of operating their business. KY-TRAINS helps alleviate these financial concerns.

Studies have shown that 91% of individuals completing an apprenticeship program supported by KY-TRAINS funding remain with their sponsoring employer five years after completion. In addition, an International Data Corporation report found that when companies offer comprehensive training programs, they yield a 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training. Moreover, these same companies enjoy 24% higher profit margins.

Is it any surprise then that corporations, including General Electric, Ford, Texas Roadhouse, and many more, are continuing to participate in KY-TRAINS for five, up to 14+ years, and counting?

Absolutely not.

It just makes sense: workforce development is a win-win for employers, employees and the economy. It’s high time more American companies embrace it.

There’s no better time to start than Workforce Development Month.

Nicole Cobb

is associate vice president of workforce solutions at Jefferson Community & Technical College in Kentucky.