EKYWorks 2.0 27-County Workforce Assessment Launches with Employer and Resident Surveys

22 Jun 2020

Workforce, Press Release, News

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (June 22, 2020) – The EKYWorks 2.0 workforce study will focus on gathering valuable information about Eastern Kentucky’s future talent pipeline and updating critical quantitative data gathered during the region’s first-ever comprehensive workforce study conducted in 2016. The EKYWorks foundational study was spearheaded by One East Kentucky in partnership with Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), AEP – Kentucky Power, Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) and the Ashland Alliance, and was completed by workforce solutions, target sector identification and strategic planning specialists’ Boyette Strategic Advisors.

EKYWorks 2.0 focuses on identifying and analyzing key workforce data supporting coal miners and those transitioning from coal-related employment. This information includes identifying transferable skillsets and compatible occupations that miners and those transitioning from the mining industry could easily transfer to; what potential industries are a best fit for Eastern Kentucky’s post-coal economy; and what education and training programs are needed to support these new industries.

“The EKYWorks 2.0 workforce study will ensure we have the most current and unique data necessary for our job recruitment toolbox as the region’s economic and workforce landscape continues to shift toward the future,” said One East Kentucky president and CEO Chuck Sexton. “This data is literally the most important tool we have to be able to both quantify the quality of our workforce and demonstrate the advantages of doing business in Eastern Kentucky verses many other areas of the country that are facing a shortage of workers trained in the skilled trades. Our people are our single most valuable competitive advantage in recruiting new companies and jobs to Eastern Kentucky.”

Employer and workforce participation in the EKYWorks2.0 study is a critical component of the project’s success.

“In 2016, thousands of employers and workers were surveyed across 27 counties in Eastern Kentucky,” said EKCEP executive director Jeff Whitehead. “We learned so much through this process about the tenacity and ingenuity of Eastern Kentuckians and just how valuable the skillsets of our people are and how willing they are to learn and apply their knowledge to other industries. We hope to replicate those numbers in this update and really gauge just how far we have come as a region over the last four years.”

“The original EKYWorks workforce study really helped Eastern Kentucky understand how former miners could easily transition to industries like automotive, metal or plastics-related manufacturing with little to no additional training,” said Boyette Strategic Advisor’s Kay Stebbins. “A solid knowledge base is only one thing employers look for when making hiring decisions. Character is another and Eastern Kentuckians have true a spirit of perseverance, hard work, dedication and loyalty – all very valuable and important characteristics in an employee.”

The data from 2016’s workforce study has been a tremendous asset in marketing the region for new industrial development and job creation opportunities like never before. EKYWorks 2.0 will include input from new and existing employers, economic development partners, secondary and post-secondary educators and students, and all levels of Eastern Kentucky’s workforce.

“It is even more crucial to diversify Eastern Kentucky’s economy now than ever before. Both Ashland Alliance and One East Kentucky have met with hundreds of national and international companies over the last five years to build our targeted industry project pipelines in efforts to bring new jobs to the region,” said Ashland Alliance president and CEO Tim Gibbs. “The information from the EKYWorks workforce study allows us to present real evidence about our workforce and guided our laser-focused approach to recruiting industries that we know would be successful in our region and know this because the EKYWorks workforce study proves it.”

The EKYWorks study uncovered very important information not available in traditional sources of aggregate research and data statistics. Nearly 80 percent of employers surveyed across the region said they were either satisfied or very satisfied when asked about their satisfaction with the region’s workforce as it applies to their business. The majority of employers surveyed also think the cost of the workforce is on track or lower than it should be for the quality of work they are receiving. Many job seekers across the workforce are interested in additional training and are willing to commute upwards of 50 miles for “good jobs”.

“Kentucky Power has been a proud supporter of the EKYWorks workforce study since day one and since the 2016 study was completed, Eastern Kentucky has seen several new manufacturers and other targeted industries locate in the region,” said Kentucky Power president and chief operating officer Brett Mattison. “To ensure we continue to see more companies choosing Eastern Kentucky as their new home, and creating well-paying jobs for our people, it is important to make sure we have the best workforce information readily available to help tell the region’s story. This study has paved the way for much of both the work and success economic development organizations like One East Kentucky and Ashland Alliance have experienced in recent history and we want to see that momentum continue with innovative approaches to economic development across the region.”

In addition to updated workforce skillset and employer data, EKYWorks 2.0 will outline strategic initiatives geared toward developing and growing the region’s current workforce and creating a robust talent pipeline for employers. This study will look at the ongoing transition of the coal workforce into new opportunities, innovations in attracting new industry and in-demand skillsets desired by new employers locating to the region.

“Appalachia’s reliance on steel, coal and energy production has provided a good way of life for many, many families over the last several centuries,” said SOAR Executive Director Jared Arnett. “But the key to Eastern Kentucky’s future is ensuring we are able to build and diversify our economy to encompass more than one or two main industries. Industrial development is a main goal outlined in SOAR’s Blueprint for Appalachian Kentucky and this workforce study is a foundational pillar to much of the work necessary to ensure our success in expanding existing companies and attracting new ones. This workforce study has shown us that there is a real future for Eastern Kentucky.”

To participate in an employer or resident survey, or for more information about the EKYWorks 2.0 workforce study, please visit the project website at www.EKYWorks.org. For any questions about EKYWorks 2.0, please contact One East Kentucky president and CEO Chuck Sexton at chuck@oneeastky.com.

About One East Kentucky:

Established in 2015 as east Kentucky’s Center of Economic Development Excellence, One East Kentucky is a 501(c)3 regional economic development organization responsible for spearheading the growth and diversification of eastern Kentucky’s economic base through recruiting new industry, jobs and investment to the heart of Appalachia. Since 2016, One East Kentucky has announced over 1,000 new jobs and $154.6 million in capital investment. For more information about One East Kentucky, the nine-county region, industrial properties, workforce development, incentives or other economic development resources, visit www.oneeastky.com. Follow One East Kentucky at facebook.com/oneeastky, on Twitter @OneEastKY and LinkedIn.