Call to Order and Roll Call
The 4th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Labor and Industry was held on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, at 2:30 PM, in the Convention Center at Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park. Representative Joni Jenkins, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members: Senators Julian M. Carroll and Ken Winters; Representatives John A. Arnold Jr., Will Coursey, C.B. Embry Jr., Bill Farmer, Richard Henderson, Dennis Horlander, Wade Hurt, Joni L. Jenkins, Adam Koenig, Mary Lou Marzian, Michael J. Nemes, Tom Riner, Jim Stewart III, and Brent Yonts.
Guests: Joseph Meyer, Secretary, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet; Tom West, Executive Director, Kentucky Workforce Investment Board; Mark Brown, Secretary, Kentucky Labor Cabinet and Kim Perry, Kentucky Labor Cabinet.
Representative Jenkins, presiding as Chair, informed the committee and attendees that the Co-Chairs of the committee, Senator Kerr and Representative Nelson, were not able to attend the meeting. A welcome was extended to Representative Keith Hall, former Representative Charlie Hoffman, former Representative Jack Coleman, and former Representative Mark Brown, who were in attendance. As the elected representative from Marshall County, Representative Coursey thanked the members for their continued support of the annual Kentucky Labor-Management Conference, held at Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park in Gilbertsville. A moment of silence was observed in remembrance of the eleventh anniversary of September 11, 2001.
Good Jobs and the Skills Gap
Secretary Joseph Meyer, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and Executive Director Tom West, Kentucky Workforce Investment Board, presented information regarding the job market in Kentucky and the apparent skills gap that inhibits the filling of many high-skilled technical and manufacturing jobs. Secretary Meyer stated that, according to a 2011 study by Deloitte, there are 600,000 manufacturing jobs unfilled because employers are unable to acquire employees with the necessary skills and training for the jobs. According to the study, while technical and manufacturing jobs have changed significantly, the education and training curriculum has not been modified to instruct students in critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, commonly referred to as soft skills. These soft skills are necessary to fill and maintain the available positions.
A study completed in 2012 by Brookings showed that in metropolitan areas, including Louisville, higher unemployment rates may occur when the jobs require more secondary education and training than the average adult in these areas has attained. Kentucky has responded with an approach to education and training programs that will strengthen the relationship of business and industry. Secretary Meyer informed the committee of an executive order which places all career and technical education programs within the Department of Education. This reorganization aligns post secondary and technical programs with the department updated curriculum standards, to prepare every student to be career-ready as well as college-ready.
The Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (KWIB) seeks to develop tools to promote accountability within communities and the workforce by strengthening the relationship with local business and industry. The growth of secondary technical education programs in Kentucky is crucial to employment in emerging manufacturing and technical sectors. However, there is an apparent gap in instruction of soft skills, including practical and critical problem solving skills in the workforce. A key initiative to the program is identifying statewide, regional, and local sectors of business and industry that are emerging as valuable, high wage employment fields. Data-driven identification and training investment decisions are helping to bring these jobs to Kentuckians. The initiative faces funding challenges in developing career pathways to put people on the job.
KWIB assists in developing work ready communities, where the entire community is committed to accountability in education and training results so that the workforce has all of the skills necessary to do the work required, including digital literacy. Mr. West stated that ten communities have been certified by KWIB as Work Ready Communities, eight applications for certification are pending, and 30 communities in Kentucky have applied for certification in 2013. There are ten local workforce investment boards in Kentucky.
In response to questions from Representative Yonts, Secretary Meyer explained that according to the 2011 Deloitte study, nationwide there are 600,000 manufacturing jobs unfilled because of the skills gap. Many representatives of Kentucky manufacturing businesses have expressed the need for highly skilled, trained workers to fill high paying positions. A factor attributing to the lack of workers is that high school graduates often place factory and manufacturing jobs at the bottom of their desired workplace lists. Businesses need to engage in major outreach to the education community, parents, and students to help them understand what economic opportunities exist. The Education and Workforce Development Cabinet has taken initiative to heighten the role of Kentucky’s business and technical schools through Career Pathways and SB 38. Secretary Meyer said that budgeting remains a challenge.
In response to questions from Representative Farmer, Secretary Meyer explained that the soft skills, in particular time management and discipline, are not taught expressly in post secondary education. This presents a problem when graduates enter the workforce. Employers experience issues with employees not showing up to work on-time and every day. The ability to attain a degree or certification in a field through a college or education program does not necessarily mean that the graduate has attained the soft skills needed to maintain employment. Mr. West said that the Work Ready Community programs have made some very creative efforts to raise awareness of this issue.
In response to questions from Representative Koenig, Mr. West said any member or group representative of the community may apply for work ready certification, whether it is the school board, chamber of commerce, or the local workforce. At a recent meeting in Madison County, half of those in attendance were from local businesses and the other half were representatives of education.
Senator Winters stated that a standard curriculum between career and technical colleges needs to be established, as well as early guidance for students who express an interest in a particular field.
The minutes of the meeting on August 16 were approved by voice vote.
Employer Education Program
Secretary Mark Brown, Kentucky Labor Cabinet, provided the members with an overview of the six education and training program partnership opportunities offered by the Cabinet to employers. Participation in the programs is voluntary. All services provided by the staff of the Education and Training Division are free.
· Voluntary Protection Partnership (VPP) is the most prestigious and rigorous for companies to earn. The Education and Training Division staff work with most companies several months/years before the company will complete the criteria to achieve this recognition. There are 11 active VPP sites in KY with an additional eight to ten in various stages of the program.
· Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) is the fastest growing partnership in general industry with 17 active sites. While similar to VPP, it is not as stringent and the initial process differs. Recertification for this program occurs every two to three years.
· Construction Partnership Program (CPP) is for construction companies/sites only. CPP involves all employees on site, including sub contractors. Companies may have several active sites in the partnership at the same time. There will be at least 16 active sites by the end of September 2012, the most open CPP partnerships at one time. CPP is a fast growing program, and the division expects several more requests before the end of the year.
· Safety Partnership program (SPP) is designed for the company struggling with safety and health issues. SPP is a three year program with the goal to greatly improve rates and overall safety of the facility in the three year time frame. Successful competition of this program can also be used as a stepping stone to apply for the SHARP partnership. The division is currently looking for companies to assist.
· Voluntary Protection Partnership for Construction (VPPC) is very similar to the VPP but geared for the construction industry. When an active site is chosen a complete and highly detailed safety and health audit is conducted. Kentucky is one of only a few states that offer the VPPC program. There are two active VPPC companies.
· OSH Strategic Partnership (OSP) is offered to groups looking to partner with OSH that may not fit into another partnership, such as unions or trade associations. There are no active OSPs.
The Partnership Branch is very busy, and all services are provided by the four consultants and three program administrators. Employers have offered very favorable responses and comments to the partnership programs provided.
Additional safety initiatives conducted by the Cabinet include the 2012 Heat Campaign and the Tornado Outreach. In early July, Education and Training Division staff traveled to 77 counties providing educational information on the dangers of working in heat. After the early March tornadoes in West Liberty and Salyersville, teams of E & T staff traveled to the affected areas handing out free personal protection equipment and urging people to work safely. The personal protection equipment was donated to the Labor Cabinet for outreach.
In response to Representative Nemes’ inquiry regarding insurance premium reductions for employers participating in the partnerships, Secretary Brown indicated the companies do experience premium reductions.
Representative Farmer asked if a cost/benefit analysis for the partnership programs had been performed. Secretary Brown stated that, while he could not provide a dollar amount, the programs are saving Kentucky employers money.
Representative Coursey stated his appreciation to Secretary Brown for his assistance and accessibility to the members of the General Assembly.
Chair Jenkins informed members that staff is working with Chair Kerr on arrangements to have the October meeting at Midway College.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned.