Workforce Development Committee started many successful initiatives

Published 2:38 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of three columns from local workforce development volunteers exploring past, present and future workforce development efforts in Danville and Boyle County. Watch for the next column on the Feb. 21 opinion page, and read the previous article on by searching for “Steve Rinehart.”


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In 2007, a regional focus group of employers was hosted by the Danville-Boyle County Chamber’s Workforce Development Committee to hear and comment on the results of an employer survey that had been conducted by the Bluegrass Area Development District (BGADD) in 17 central Kentucky counties, including Boyle. The survey had collected responses from hundreds of employers within BGADD in response to two primary questions:

• “What deficiencies do you see in applicants for employment?” and

• “What deficiencies do you see in current employees that could affect your company’s future?”

During the discussion of the survey results, one of the possible causal factors that surfaced was              

“a disconnect between what students learn in school and the skills that are required for success in the


The Chamber’s Workforce Development Committee made addressing that causal factor one

of its primary objectives and created several initiatives.

• Business-Education Exchanges: Observing that leaders in the education and business sectors rarely interacted with each other, the Workforce Development Committee organized a series of exchanges in which school superintendents and principals spend a few hours in local businesses to learn, not only about products and processes, but also about the management and human resources challenges.

Similarly, representatives of local businesses spend time with superintendents and principals to experience the school environment and learn about the challenges of dealing with state and federal mandates, socio-economic differences among students and funding reductions, while trying to prepare students for life and the world of work.

• Teacher Academy: While the business-education exchange experiences were enlightening for them, education leaders suggested that teachers and counselors who deal most directly with students each day would also benefit from similar exposure to the issues and expectations of employers.

Taking that input to heart, the Workforce Development Committee created the Teacher Academy program: three days in early summer during which teachers and counselors spend a half day each in four different local businesses.

The goals of the Academy were for the educators to learn about the various career opportunities that exist in local business and industry, the education and skill requirements, and examples of how the academic subject areas they teach are applied in the workplace.

The Academy concludes with a Q&A session with a panel of local human resources managers on topics such as application processes, interviews, drug testing, criminal background checks and workplace behavior expectations such as attendance, teamwork and communications.

The initial Teacher Academy program was offered to educators from the Danville and Boyle County school systems. In subsequent years, the focus widened and eventually also included educators from Kentucky School for the Deaf, Mercer, Burgin, Garrard, Lincoln, Casey and Danville Christian Academy school systems.

In its 11 consecutive years, the academy has involved more than 200 teachers, counselors and administrators in unique experiences that emphasize their roles in workforce development.

The Teacher Academy program had no budget and no defined funding from the Chamber of Commerce. The participating businesses donate their time and provide breakfast or lunch for the participants. Other businesses and organizations — notably Community Trust Bank, Central KY Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and the Central KY Regional Job Training Consortium — provide sponsorships to cover other expenses.

• Magical Manufacturing Mystery Tour: Manufacturing is a major sector of the economy of the Boyle-Mercer-Garrard-Lincoln-Casey county region. Collectively, manufacturing is the largest employment sector in the region.

At the same time, many citizens have a mental image of manufacturing as “dark, dirty and dangerous” places — an image that is inconsistent with the realities of modern manufacturing.

In an effort to address the misconceptions, in October 2016, in conjunction with National Manufacturing Day, the Workforce Development Committee organized the Magical Manufacturing Mystery tour. The tour was repeated in 2017.

Superintendents, principals and other administrators of regional school systems were invited to participate. Following a tour of the technical training facilities of the Danville BCTC campus, the participants boarded a bus for a short ride and visits to three high-tech, state-of-the art manufacturing facilities within a quarter mile of the BCTC campus (American Greetings, Donnelley/LSC and Meggitt).

The Chamber’s Workforce Development Committee also explored other areas affecting the development of an adequate and trained workforce, including child care and early childhood education and school readiness, felony expungement, and pre-employment training.

In addition, YEA! (Young Entrepreneur Academy), a nationally-recognized program, was started by the Chamber in 2012 as an afterschool program for middle- and high-school students from both local school systems to provide mentored, hands-on experience in the skills required to start a new business. Students identified product or business ideas, developed business plans, created budgets and marketing plans and then “pitched” their business ideas to a panel of local business persons.

The best ideas and plans were eligible for scholarships. After three years, the YEA! Afterschool program was replaced by a for-credit, semester long class at Boyle County High School and has continued in that format through the 2018-19 school year.

Based on the recommendations of the RKG consultants, in 2017, the primary responsibility for workforce development efforts was shifted from the Chamber of Commerce to the Economic Development Partnership.

A Workforce Development Committee within EDP was formed, chaired by Erin Tipton and Ennis Tillman, and the mission of the committee was defined:

“. . . to support economic development by developing talent pipeline strategies to coordinate                                  career and technical education within current and future employment needs.”

For 2018, five objectives for the committee were identified, and a subcommittee of community

members with interests and/or expertise in each area was created for each objective.

The third and final part of this series will describe the objectives, efforts and initiatives of the EDP Workforce Development Committee and its subcommittees.

Steve Rinehart is a retired human resources professional. He served as chair of the Boyle COunty Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Development Committee from 2006 to 2017.