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CPE President Aaron Thompson to begin statewide tour to address workforce shortage, career readiness

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson will kick off a statewide tour this week focused on addressing the immediate workforce shortage and increasing work-ready college graduates to support business, industry, communities and regional economies.

“Our colleges and universities play a crucial role in training the highly-skilled workers that fuel our economy,” said Thompson. “These conversations will bring local leaders and business communities together to address current needs and seize opportunities to build a workforce that is prepared for the jobs of the future.”

The first Higher Education Matters Community Conversations was at the Rotary Club of Louisville this week.

Aaron Thompson

Thompson’s second stop will be a workforce roundtable at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College on Friday, followed by a news conference on the campus. He will also visit Meade County College and Career Center for a tour, followed by conversations with students and a roundtable with local officials.

The community conversations aim to help identify ways higher education can do more to tackle the workforce shortage and skills gap. A 2021 Kentucky Chamber of Commerce report estimates that the state has 90,000 to 100,000 job openings in any given month, and 65% to 85% of these vacancies require training, credentialing or degrees beyond high school. Kentucky has one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the nation at 56.3%.

This is the second statewide tour Thompson has embarked on since becoming CPE president in 2018. In 2019, he conducted listening tours across the Commonwealth over the course of the year. He spoke with more than 3,500 students, parents, community leaders and employers about barriers to pursuing a degree and succeeding in college, affordability, the workforce needs of businesses and more.

The responses from employers during the listening tour framed a set of questions that will guide the upcoming community conversations.

• What are your current and future workforce needs?
• How well is higher education meeting those needs?
• What are the competencies you’re missing?
• How can higher education be more responsive?

One of the topics that emerged from the first tour was the need for students to learn soft skills, such as critical thinking, effective communication and collaboration, they need to succeed in the workforce. Additionally, they discussed how to facilitate experiential learning for students through internships, apprenticeships and job shadowing.

“We’ve developed several new programs and supports for colleges and universities to align their curricula to the needs of the current economy, based on our conversations with employers during the first tour,” said Thompson. “These upcoming community conversations will help us build on those supports to help ensure higher education institutions have the information and resources they need to send their students out into the workforce successfully.”

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

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