Results of EKY work study released

Report found a spirit of perseverance in eastern Kentucky workforce despite loss of coal jobs

By TJ Caudill - [email protected]

HAZARD — After several months of researching, Boyette Strategic Advisors released the results of their work study at a public forum held at Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) on Wednesday. Community leaders hope the results will help with recruiting new businesses and economic investment to eastern Kentucky. They also hope to use the results to train a new workforce.

The study surveyed more than 500 adult workers in 27 eastern Kentucky counties. One East Kentucky spearheaded the work study, with Boyette Strategic Advisors (BSA) conducting the study.

In total, 2,200 participants took part in the study. More than 1,700 residents completed surveys, along with the 5oo adult workers.

BSA observed during the study that 8,500 coal jobs were lost in the last 10 years and it led to uncertainty and fear in the workforce. Despite that fear, the study reports that the adult workforce has a spirit of perseverance, hard work, tenacity, ingenuity and dedication.

Sixty-two of those who participated in the survey said they were unemployed. Many of those unemployed had been unemployed for a long time, the study found.

According to the study, workers are willing to commute long distance for decent paying jobs. More than half are will to travel 45 minutes away and a third would travel up to an hour or more for a decent paying job.

The study also found that the majority of them would consider additional training, if it led to better employment.

BSA also had input from more than 200 employers. The study says most employers had a high workforce satisfaction levels. They also believed the cost of labor was appropriate.

Some of the challengers employers had concerning eastern Kentucky workforce was the lack of educational background and technical skills, also that employees drive long distances to work.

Despite some of those challenges, 77 percent of the employers surveyed said they were satisfied with the overall value of the regional workforce.

The study also released results of data analysis of the regional population, income, size of workforce and mining employment.

According to the study, regional population is expected to decline by two percent over the next five years. Regional income and earnings are low, the study found.

The size of the labor force and labor participation has declined, the study says.

The study also says employment within the mining industry is expected to continue dropping in the next five years with total jobs projected to decrease to nearly 40 percent.

On top of that, the study found that the regional labor force has declined 20 percent in the last 10 years. Total employment has declined 21 percent in the same time frame. In total, 45,000 jobs were lost in the last 10 years.

The study found that average earnings in the eastern Kentucky have declined over the last five years, because of the lower earnings in the mining industry.

For this reason, BSA decided to find out which other industries were compatible with the mining occupation skills.

The compatible occupations for miners include:

* Manufacturing

* Transportation

* Warehousing

* Agriculture

After analyzing the work study, BSA set forth a list of recommendations to get the eastern Kentucky workforce back on their feet.

The first set of recommendations focus on education and training. They include:

* Education Coalition

* Soft Skills Training

* Fast-Track Credential Training

* Mobile Training Unit

* Manufacturing Boot Camp

* Apprenticeship Program

The second set of recommendations focus on business recruitment and job creation. They include:

* SOAR should take the lead acting as “Redevelopment Authority”

* Create Manufacturing Tax-Free Zones

* Establish an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

* Designate Start-up zones

* Pursue Government Contracts

The last set of recommendations made by BSA focuses on marketing and communications. They include:

* Key Messages

* Workforce Snapshots

* Coal Workers Profile

* Social Media Campaign

Kay Stebbins, with BSA, was one of the people who worked on the work study. She also presented the presentation to those in attendance at HCTC. After her presentation, she gave her thoughts on how it went.

“I think it went well. Sharing research and date like this, it is a challenge but it is important for the people here to understand that profile of the workforce and what it really looks like and how they can use that information and sell it to potential employers of the region,” said Stebbins.

Moving forward, Stebbins believes the information detailed in the work study will be invaluable to employers and future employers in the region.

TJ Caudill is a reporter for the Hazard Herald and he can be reached at 606-629-3245.

Report found a spirit of perseverance in eastern Kentucky workforce despite loss of coal jobs

By TJ Caudill

[email protected]

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