How 2-1-1 helps address our workforce supply crisis

September 5, 2017



Megan Stith

We’ve all had a day when something upset our pre-work routine. It could have been a flat tire, a child with a sudden fever and, hence, no daycare option, or a power outage that knocked out your alarm clock and every appliance in the kitchen. Those are bad days, to say the least, even for those of us who have flexibility and solid support systems.

But imagine if that was your constant reality. What does your workday look like if you don’t have housing and working utilities – a pla211 Web Bannerce to shower, dress and prepare a meal? What if you lost your only source of transportation? What does it look like if childcare is outside your reach?
Unfortunately, this is the routine for many families in our communities. United Way of Central Kentucky (UWCK) and our nonprofit partners meet them every day, and it couldn’t be any clearer: It takes a lot of work to get to work

We don’t always connect basic needs with someone’s ability to work. And when we think of the nonprofit community, we may consider immediate outcomes – a full belly, shelter for the night. Yet, our ultimate goal is to help families achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. That’s why local United Way affiliates and 2-1-1, a free, 24/7 helpline, are important resources for people in our

communities who need help joining the workforce and remaining in the workforce.

2-1-1’s live operators can provide callers with confirmed information about more than 2,600 local service providers. While 2-1-1 isn’t designed to resolve specific needs, it’s a valuable first step. It means a single call. In the past, someone in crisis might have had to make a dozen or more calls, or visit an unfamiliar agency and hope for the best.

In the first six months of 2017, UWCK answered more than 1,600 requests for information through the helpline or online database. These inquiries most often concern basic needs like housing, utilities and food.

From a workforce development perspective, every time our community meets someone’s basic needs, it’s a win. That’s because stability in all areas of person’s life has an undeniable
positive effect on their ability to find and/or keep a job. Further, 2-1-1 is helping people identify education, training and career resources, from Adult Education programs throughout the area to the Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail’s free job search services.

At this time, our region faces a workforce supply crisis, and part of the solution is to look at how various organizations and employers can work together to remove barriers to joining the workforce.

As Chad Sarver, general manager of Elizabethtown operations for Altec Industries and chairman of this year’s UWCK campaign, will tell you, any elite corporation points to their team as the secret to their success. And so, increasing size and quality of Central Kentucky’s workforce absolutely gives our communities a competitive advantage.

“Providers and programs that give our community members a fighting chance of gaining employment and meeting the basic needs required to retain employment are critical,” Sarver said.

Sarver added that he’s encouraged to see more community involvement in addressing barriers to work and that it is imperative that companies become invested in these efforts.

In addition to launching 2-1-1 as well as the “Way to Work” program, UWCK is proud to partner with the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board (LTWDB) as it begins to implement its strategic plan to increase workforce participation in our region. Our organization will be at the table because we believe employment for the clients we serve is a shared goal of the entire nonprofit community.

You can learn more about 2-1-1 and access its online database at www.unitedwayck.org. My hope is that community leaders, civic organizations and employers will take a few moments to familiarize themselves with the service so they are equipped to refer when a need arises. The UWCK staff is happy to provide a brief orientation at your site as well.

To learn more about the LTWDB’s strategy to increase workforce participation, please contact Lincoln Trail Area Development District Associate Director Sherry Johnson at sherry@ltadd.org.

Megan Stith is President and CEO of United Way of Central Kentucky. She can be reached at 270-737-6608 or mstith@unitedwayck.org.













The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail helps match job seekers with local employment and training opportunities. Our business solutions team offers employers of all sizes and industries personalized support to build a competitive workforce. We are an equal opportunity employer.

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Program is funded with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I funds through the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. The Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board assures compliance with the Education and Labor Cabinet’s Methods of Administration, as amended, Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Assurance and all other Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity requirements of WIOA.