Innovation and collaboration are building a Work Ready Kentucky
Kentucky Work Ready Communities, considered one of the nation's most innovative workforce development programs, is preparing a new generation of workers for success in a global economy. Developed by the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (KWIB) in 2011 with input from business, education and economic development experts, the certification program is designed to transform local economies and give counties a competitive advantage in attracting new businesses and jobs.
Kentucky was the third state to begin certifying counties as Work Ready Communities based on the quality of their labor force and has the most rigorous certification program in the nation. The program allows communities to certify the quality of their workforce and assures employers that a local workforce has the talent and skills necessary to staff existing jobs and to master the innovative technologies new jobs will require.
"We have business and industry in Kentucky that require a skilled workforce. This program provides us with a way to prove it, county by county," said Gov. Steve Beshear. "In addition, it promotes collaboration among key community stakeholders including education, economic development, elected officials, employers, workforce agencies and community organizations as they work toward common community goals."
To be designated a Kentucky Work Ready Community, counties have to meet criteria in six areas including high school graduation rate, National Career Readiness Certificate holders, community commitment, educational attainment, soft-skills development and digital literacy.
"Work Ready status shows employers and prospective employers that a county has the talented workforce that business demands – a sustainable pipeline that delivers the right workers with the right skills at the right time," said Kentucky Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes.
Communities close to meeting the criteria will be awarded the distinguished designation of Work Ready Community in Progress. To achieve this status, a county must present a viable plan to meet all of the criteria within three years. This designation demonstrates that a community is making strides and working with its community stakeholders to achieve Work Ready status.
Momentum is growing as more communities learn about the certification and how it can help them achieve a higher level of competiveness among business and industry. In addition to the 30 counties that have achieved certification as a Work Ready Community or Work Ready Community in Progress, another 40 are working on applications. Currently nine counties within the Delta Regional Authority area in Kentucky have achieved either Work Ready Community or Work Ready Community in Progress status.
"As a state, we must focus on the importance of setting workforce and economic development goals, and this program allows us to develop a framework and work together as communities toward those goals," said Education and Workforce Development Secretary Thomas O. Zawacki.