Dignitaries in Kentucky recognize a shortage of skilled laborers and are working to address the gap left from years of pressure kids experience to pursue higher education. College is instrumental for certain students. Others are best suited for skilled trades. Studies show high school students in apprenticeships or co-ops with a business can earn as much as college graduates.

Statistics released from the Kentucky Department of Education reveal that 75% of high school graduates enroll in a 2 or 4-year college or university. Only 40% of those actually earn a degree. Furthermore, 60% obtain loans to cover tuition and Kentucky is ranked fourth in the nation for highest student loan default rates. The system only works for 24% of students. Our youth need more options. The Department has been working on a plan to encourage existing businesses to expand, attract new businesses to our state, and help our students pursue rewarding careers.

Carter Walden, Cleary Information and Tech Officer, along with others from over 200 businesses across the state, attended the inaugural Track Summit hosted by the Kentucky Department of Education. TRACK is a business and industry-driven program designed for students to enter post-secondary apprenticeship training. Utilizing many of the area technology centers, students can gain credit for courses and hours worked high school while learning a trade. Employers can customize the program, select the career and technical education courses, and choose students for the apprenticeships.

Students participating avoid massive debt. State officials have approved changes to KEES funding and students can request reimbursement of approved apprenticeship expenses from their KEES earnings. These earnings can be used for items such as uniforms, tools, and safety equipment so there are no out-of-pocket expenses. Employers determine whether students successfully complete the program and transition into full-time apprenticeships after graduation. It’s proven both work-based learning and experience promote pathways to high-quality jobs for young adults.

The local impact of TRACK is proving to be successful. Students are exceeding expectations. School districts are accommodating employer’s needs and employers are retaining better-trained workers. It’s encouraging to see the amount of funding being awarded to support these new solutions.

“The Work Ready Skills Initiative is an excellent example of how Kentucky continues to shape the current and future workforce to be competitive in a global economy,” said Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary, Derrick Ramsey. “Kentucky has committed $100 million to ensure communities across the Commonwealth are able to provide the modernized training and education that will equip Kentuckians with the skills to earn sustainable incomes in high demand career sectors.” These resources can expand career and technical education facilities and upgrade equipment in schools through local partnerships between private industry and educational institutions.

We’re proud to be working with Kentucky area workforce development boards and are grateful for their support. Cleary Construction is excited for the future of skilled trades and avenues to implement these practices into our company.