Bullitt looks to be work ready

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE -- Location, location, location.

That has always been the buzz word in terms of landing industrial prospects to a community.

But, as the world changes, there is a new factor playing a big role in landing major employers.

A quality, trained work force.

To tackle that issue locally, a committee has been established to pursue a difficult certification -- to have a Work Ready Community.

Meetings have started with Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts and Bullitt County Public Schools Superintendent Keith Davis serving as co-chairs.

Robert Curry, who heads up the Work Ready program for the state of Kentucky, said having a qualified work force has become the number one factor when companies determine where they will locate.

As the state and local economic leaders try to lure companies to the Commonwealth, Curry said the question asked is what the prospects are looking for.

While factors such as site location, tax rates, utilities and incentives are all part of the mix, "work force is always the top issue."

In the past, Curry said stories that a community has hard working people may have satisfied prospects. Today, they want more proof and less antedotal stories.

The state of Kentucky understands the importance and would like to have a majority of its counties certified; however, Curry promised those in attendance that meeting all six of the criteria would not be easy.

"The standards are tough," said Curry. "That's on purpose."

Having tough standards will put Kentucky ahead of others, said Curry.

Some of the areas which must be met include community commitment, educational attainment and soft skills development.

Curry said that the people need to be in the right place to make things happen.

To reach certification, those involved in the effort must be the key elected officials, education leaders and important business leaders from the private sector.

Educational attainment includes a plan to get more students attaining some post-secondary education.

By 2018, at least 70 percent of the jobs on the market will require some post-secondary education.

The initial plan would be to get 25 percent of the adults in the community with at least an associate's degree. Within seven years, that number would need to rise to 39 percent.

The development of soft skills is very important, according to Curry.

Having employees who show up to work each day on time with the ability to learn and to communicate is vital.

If a worker shows up, Curry said businesses can teach them the skills needed.

Graduation rates must reach 82.32 percent and the national career readiness rate must reach a certain level of 15 percent.

Another criteria is to have at least 25 percent of the adults have at least an associate's degree.

The availability of internet, which is another part of the criteria, should not be a problem for the county.

The work began recently when a committee met to begin looking at specific steps to take to reach the stage of being a community in progress.

While in the very preliminary stages, the discussion was varied.

Once the county decides to make an application and be declared to be a community in progress, there is a three-year window to meet the criteria.

Executive director John Snider told the members of his Economic Development Authority about the importance of the project during its May meeting.

He said reaching some a prestigious classification would help in so many areas.

Most importantly, he said the county should be working to make sure the children secure an education so they will be able to find a quality job close to home.

Donna Miller, director of the Bullitt County campus of Jefferson Community and Technical College, mentioned the concept to county officials over a year ago.

She said the college would be a key player in helping the county move forward.

Anyone wishing to know about the program can go to www.workready.ky.gov or contact either Davis or Roberts.