Employers, KCTCS team up to help Kentucky workers pursue education

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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By Sarah Ladd

Kentucky Lantern

Kentucky companies who offer tuition assistance to employees as well as flexibility at work can now earn the designation “Education First Employer” through a new statewide initiative announced this week.

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At least 45 companies have already signed up to be Education First Employers. The program also requires them to partner with colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. There are 16 KCTCS campuses in Kentucky, and the system is the largest provider of postsecondary education in the commonwealth.

Businesses in health care, manufacturing, skilled trades and other fields who have signed onto the program include Amazon, King’s Daughters Medical Center, Duke Energy and many others. 

Employers must also meet or exceed paying the living wage in their area and show a commitment to diversity and inclusion. What they get in return are filled positions and better retention of employees who want to advance in their companies, KCTCS said.

“This is an innovative program that is truly moving from just credentialing in our education system to skills based training for specific employers,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday. “These students are not only fully prepared for the workforce, but the idea is they could start with the company that’s been helping them get through their education. This is truly a win-win partnership.”

Through this program, KCTCS wants to “reverse this troubling trend” of Kentuckians dropping out of school because of finances, it says.

The Kentucky Lantern previously reported that about a third of college students in the state are low-income. And those who drop a class because of financial challenges are less likely to finish their degree. Currently about 54% of Kentucky adults have a postsecondary degree. The state wants to see that number at 60% by 2030.

“KCTCS colleges are doubling down on partnerships with Kentucky companies to increase the skill level of our workforce,” KCTCS Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development Jessie Schook said in a statement. “We are collaborating with these businesses to support learners as they balance work responsibilities with their education. In doing so, we will increase program completion rates and ultimately advance the skill level of Kentucky’s workforce.”