In an innovative effort to train and strengthen Kentucky's future workforce, Kentucky has created a new education/training model that offers some students the option of combining educational opportunities with on-the-job training. The program, called the Skills Initiative, is based on a German model that closes the skills gap between what employers need and what job applicants offer.
Gov. Steve Beshear launched the program today along with Peter Fischer, Germany's Minister of Economic Affairs; state and education officials; and local business leaders at a meeting at the Governor's Mansion.
Kentucky's Skills Initiative program features elements from Germany's "dual system" of vocational education that allows students to earn their high school diplomas while working as apprentices in specific occupations. Through the Skills Initiative, the German Embassy brings together manufacturing industries and local education/training providers, with the aim of developing training programs best suited to businesses' needs. Kentucky students' participation in the program is voluntary.
"Businesses consistently tell us the need for highly-skilled workers has never been greater," said Gov. Beshear. "So we set out to develop the best training programs possible to meet the needs of Kentucky business, both now and for the future. We found an extremely effective program developed by the Germans, and so we contacted the German Embassy to learn more. They've been extremely helpful, and with their assistance, we created the Skills Initiative. The Skills Initiative is open to all manufacturing industries in the state, and I encourage businesses and students to take advantage of this opportunity."
The primary goal of the initiative is to utilize and align Kentucky's existing education and workforce development resources to create a system of dual-track training that mixes equal parts education and work. Essentially, Kentucky companies, government and educational institutions partner together to begin preparing students for the workforce through apprenticeship-style models of education.
Currently, more than 150 Kentucky companies are participating in formalized dual-track training programs, employing hundreds of student workers.
"Our aim is for the Skills Initiative to be industry driven and based upon the market demands of Kentucky's workforce needs," said Cabinet for Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes. "It's vital that students develop the skills needed to be successful and that companies have a strong pool of workers to choose from."
Germany's strong business presence in Kentucky is a main reason for the partnership. Currently, there are 62 German-owned businesses in the state, employing nearly 9,000 people. With recent location announcements by Bilstein Group, Kayser Automotive, iwis Engine Systems and Dr. Schneider Automotive Systems, coupled with major expansions at Mubea, Webasto Roof Systems, Siemens, ZF Steering Systems and others, Kentucky stands out as a leading destination for German investment.
"The Skills Initiative is a win-win idea. Everyone benefits," said Fischer. "German-American cooperation in workforce skills development will provide opportunities in local communities across Kentucky for good jobs, quality training and businesses that succeed in the U.S. and global markets."