BOT: UK must accelerate growth, progress to advance Kentucky

Published 10:09 am Tuesday, November 7, 2023


University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees on Friday directed UK President Eli Capilouto to move quickly to accelerate the institution’s progress in addressing the state’s workforce needs.

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“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 board members as they gathered for their annual retreat this week. “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.”

Specifically, as an extension of the university’s strategic plan – The UK PURPOSE – the Board directed Capilouto to make plans to:

• Strategically continue enrollment growth as well as initiate new efforts designed to incentivize students to live and work in the state 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 – the UK CORE – with a focus on ensuring students have the skills necessary to compete and succeed in a fast-paced, 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 in the state’s largest city and its workforce needs. A panel of business and health executives from across the state also discussed workforce needs as well as opportunities for — and challenges to — economic growth.

The state has in recent years experienced billions of dollars in economic development activity with initiatives such as the Blue Oval plant near Elizabethtown. Yet, the state’s workforce participation rate is among the lowest in the country and employers are clamoring for more skilled workers with both technical competencies and so-called soft skills such as the ability to communicate, think critically and work in teams.

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.”