With unprecedented economic growth in Kentucky, the University of Kentucky is turning its attention to addressing the Commonwealth’s workforce needs.
Kentucky has seen an injection of billions of dollars in economic development activity with projects, such as the BlueOval SK battery plant in Hardin County. However, the state’s workforce participation rate is among the lowest in the country. Employers are clamoring for more skilled workers with both technical competencies and soft skills, such as the ability to communicate, think critically and work collaboratively.
“Our state is attracting billions of dollars in economic development, auguring the potential of thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs – jobs that will require a more honed and expanded set of technical competencies, as well as a more humane capacity and expanded sense of empathy,” Capilouto told members of the UK Board of Trustees as they gathered for their annual retreat. “We can both adapt quickly and act responsively to changing workplace needs and think deeply about the timeless skills and knowledge that our students need to be well-rounded and moral citizens.”
As an extension of the university’s strategic plan – UK PURPOSE – the Board directed Capilouto to make plans to:
- Strategically continue enrollment growth.
- Initiate new efforts designed to incentivize students to remain in Kentucky to live and work following graduation.
- Conduct an assessment in a campus-wide initiative through the institution’s shared governance structure to assess, evaluate and revise the university’s general education curriculum (UK CORE) with a focus on ensuring students have the skills necessary to compete and succeed in a fast-paced and changing economy.
- Expand partnerships with public and private sector organizations to enhance the university’s mission in education, research, service and care.
- Review and enhance UK’s recruitment and retention efforts around employees to meet changing workforce needs internally.
- Review policies, procedures and financing strategies to ensure that UK is aligned with the state’s needs, including relationships with public and governmental agencies as well as internal governing and administrative regulations to ensure the institution is poised to accelerate progress and growth.
During the Board’s annual retreat, members heard from Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg about re-envisioning economic development efforts and workforce needs in the state’s largest city. A panel of business and health executives from across the state also discussed workforce needs, as well as opportunities for and challenges in economic growth.
A consistent theme from the policy leaders throughout the sessions was the need to partner with UK to grow enrollment, align with state workforce needs and find ways through collaborations to keep more Kentuckians in the Commonwealth after they graduate.
“President Capilouto said we do a horrible disservice to Kentucky if we don’t act,” said Bob Vance, chair of the UK Board of Trustees. The resolution “is our answer to the President’s call – a call to action, to accelerate growth to do and be more for Kentucky.”
A copy of the Board’s recommendations to President Capilouto can be found here.