Staff and citizens were surprised recently with the announcement on January 10th of twenty-one Kentucky Career Center locations closing across the state. This closure is scheduled to take place by the end of March and will dislocate ninety-five state employees, reportedly to be absorbed into other vacancies within state offices. This decision was brought about by a 4.8 million dollar deficit being carried by the Office of Employment and Training (OET).
The announcement included a description of a reorganization that identified hubs in each of the workforce areas. These hubs would be the only comprehensive locations within each area, meaning the only locations containing all required partners (OET, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Workforce) staff on a full-time basis. The announcement places emphasis on the use of technology to continue to serve its customers; it also tasks workforce with identifying, securing, and funding any additional physical locations within their regions. All career centers across the state were impacted by this announcement; the Bluegrass was hit particularly hard. While the average ratio for all other county-to-service hubs was approximately six to one, in the Bluegrass that ratio was seventeen to one. In addition, the population service area of 806,167 is 2.8 times the average for the state.
With the Bluegrass being a thriving area for many of the sectors identified as high demand in the state and with some of the largest manufacturers in the Commonwealth located in central Kentucky finding a shortage of qualified candidates, it came as a surprise that the reduction of brick and mortar locations was so great. As the local workforce staff rushed to ensure there would be no gap in the services, the news spread. Upon hearing about the reorganization, Jody Lassiter, President & CEO of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership stepped in. Lassiter, a former member of the Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board, understood the value brought to Boyle and the surrounding counties through the services of the Kentucky Career Center and the many ways the loss of the location in Danville would impact the area.
Lassiter, in his efforts with Economic Development, has worked closely with staff at the career center, stating, “Erica Sluder (WIOA Business Services Specialist) has been a critical member of our recruitment team, when we have prospects who want to specifically talk about labor, workforce, and human resources issues. Every site visit is drastically different, it really is determined by what the client wants to hear, see, or do while they are here in the community, but I immediately call upon Erica to be the voice of ‘what is available’ in workforce development, whether it be assistance in funding, training, or support, once a company locates in our area. We definitely see the value of the WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) staff and as a result of the relationships Erica and others have developed over time with industries in the community, we want to make sure we have the services of the WIOA staff close at-hand, actively involved and engaged.”
The Economic Development Partnership’s nine partners (4 branches local government, the Chamber of Commerce, the Industrial Foundation, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Heart of Danville, and Main Street Perryville) considered their resources available. Their hopes are to assist with a smooth transition for the WIOA staff and/or state staff in order to continue serving the individuals and business of Boyle County and the surrounding area. Lassiter has even offered multiple locations for consideration, both in the city center or a campus inside the Industrial Park, if staff were to be dislocated from their current location. Lassiter stated, “Our number one priority, due to our distance from Lexington, being in the far southwestern corner, is to retain, if not all, at least our workforce development team to be in close proximity to our industries and businesses.”
Lassiter understands the difficult decisions placed on those in state government due to limited funding and the challenges associated with offices and services and their locations. He adds, “regardless of what compels the decision, we (the Economic Development Partnership) want to be here in a supportive role locally, to make sure our clients’ needs are being met.”
Lassiter would like to see Workforce, the Office for Vocational Rehabilitation and Cabinets for Family and Children, co-located in the current Danville Kentucky Career Center – Bluegrass building, which offers off-street parking and is a spacious facility. He sees co-locating those organizations within that building as simpler and cost-effective. Lassiter added, “We hope the state will see the value of the property it already owns and controls, and the efficiency of co-locating state offices that are in leased spaces around town.” He continued, “But if that’s not sufficient, we want to be in a position to help the WIOA staff in particular, because of their services to business and industry.”
If you would like to learn more about the valuable services available at no cost to employers and job seekers please visit: www.ckycareers.com or a Kentucky Career Center – Bluegrass location near you.
These services are funded by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and administered by the Bluegrass Area Development District, under the guidance of the Bluegrass Workforce Innovation Board and 17-county Local Elected Officials of the Bluegrass Region. For more information on this story or the services of the Kentucky Career Center