In a few months, we hope the worst of COVID-19 is behind us. When that happens, the economy will improve, and employers will start hiring again.
A big question is: Will they be able to find a trained and skilled workforce to fit the many open jobs they’ll have? The answer is: Yes, if Kentuckians seek training from one of the 16 colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), where Kentuckians are provided with the education and training required for today’s careers. By working with local employers, KCTCS understands their needs and makes sure students are ready to walk out of college and into a career.
Typically, when unemployment is high, enrollment in community college increases, but that hasn’t happened during COVID. According to the Strada Education Network’s Center for Education Consumer Insights, “among the reasons people aren’t enrolling, particularly at community colleges, is that they’re too busy navigating economic uncertainty to make college a priority.” Additionally, Strada’s data suggest that when workers do decide to get training, “they’re most likely to enroll in a nondegree program or seek skills training.”
KCTCS offers short-term training in fields that are in demand. For example, students can complete welder or CNC operator (commercial driver’s license) training, both of which offer an abundance of job openings right now. Most of the students in these programs, and many others, have jobs waiting for them when they complete their programs. The salaries are good, too. According to Salary.com, in Kentucky, median entry-level welder salary is $43,000, and median CNC operator’s salary is $45,000. For truck drivers, median salary is about $50,000.
One of the biggest obstacles students face is the cost of higher education. KCTCS offers options that keep costs down. In fact, many students pay no tuition at all because of grants and scholarships.
One of those scholarships is the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship (WRKS). Funded by the Kentucky Lottery, the WRKS provides free tuition for up to 60 hours for courses in specific programs in highdemand fields. Those include health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation/ logistics, business/IT and construction/skilled trades. The scholarship covers hundreds of courses in these programs.
Whether students want to earn a certificate or go for an associate degree, they can, if they meet eligibility requirements for the WRKS. The scholarship is open to any Kentuckian who has not yet earned a degree. There are no age or income restrictions either.
The Workforce Solutions program might be the answer to upskilling employees. Workforce Solutions provides customized training for employers at little to no cost.
If a student is interested in a bachelor’s degree, taking the first two years of classes at KCTCS saves thousands of Kentuckians thousands of dollars each year.