The Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board (LTWDB) recently released its three-year strategic plan, reflecting on the hard work and insight of our board and many regional stakeholders.
The focus of the strategic plan is to strengthen the existing workforce by providing career services and training to job seekers, connecting with those who struggle with barriers to employment and preparing our youth for successful career paths. This requires partnerships between educational institutions, employers, the workforce development board, local chambers of commerce, political leaders and community organizations.
The strategic plan builds on what has worked well over the past five years, while adapting to changes and focusing specifically on ways to achieve our most urgent priorities. The plan was developed by consulting firm Strategy Matters using various data sources that included interviews, focus groups, surveys, a labor market analysis, a review of past efforts and insight gathered from the LTWDB’s annual workforce summit in August.
The LTWDB envisions a vibrant local economy and an engaged, well-prepared and actively participating workforce. Our region offers a host of incentives for those who live and work here, such as quality schools, affordable housing, employment opportunities, recreational activities and a seasonal climate. The strategic plan outlines our vision and strategies for addressing workforce development in new, bold ways.
First, we want to engage businesses and develop a legislative agenda to enable the state to better support business needs. When businesses around the region come together to share best practices, we have the opportunity to co-create solutions to shared problems. As we prepare for new investment in the region, such as the BlueOval SK battery manufacturing campus in Glendale, we may also consider a regional branding strategy to encourage people to relocate to the Lincoln Trail region. A foundation of these efforts will be working with businesses, committee members and other stakeholders to identify the most urgent priorities for legislative and regulatory support.
Secondly, the LTWDB is working to identify, support and motivate members of the latent workforce to participate in employment with local businesses. A key priority for us is to ensure all prospective employees have access to affordable childcare. We also recognize the need to support the behavioral health and wellbeing of our workforce. It is important that we work together as a community to recognize and address life challenges and basic skills development. As employers, we must convene and create new initiatives that remove obstacles such as transportation and prior felony convictions. The LTWDB’s Expungement Benefits Program is an example of how local programs can be developed to open new doors.
The third focus area of our strategic plan is to develop, expand and retain local talent by connecting people with the education, training and work experience necessary to succeed. We will continue to facilitate partnerships between local businesses and local educational institutions to develop programming tailored to the needs of local businesses. The Greater Knox Coding Academy, a 17-week certificate program at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College (ECTC), is an excellent model. The program was developed after leaders from the Knox Regional Development Alliance approached ECTC about a need for more IT professionals.
The future workforce certainly plays an important role, particularly as we look at the number of new jobs coming to our region. We will continue to invest in the availability and usage of work-based learning opportunities within high schools and promote career awareness in middle schools. The Kentucky Career Center-Lincoln Trail, for example, offers career seminars and employer panels at local schools.
There is no doubt we have work to do in order to achieve our goals. Collaboration among community partners will be key. If you would like to get involved, I encourage you to reach out to the LTWDB at ltcareercenter.org/taskforce.
Dean Schamore is the chair of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board and owner of Digital Connections Plus in Hardinsburg, Ky.