by Don Weber –
GEORGETOWN – Improving the so-called essential work skills of the state’s future workforce was the focus of Monday’s Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting held at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing North American Production Support Center in Georgetown.
House Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, is currently working on legislation similar to House Bill 454, which he filed during the 2017 legislative session. The legislation would require the Kentucky Department of Education to develop a curriculum for all school districts which would focus on “essential skills.”
Those skills include adaptability, diligence, initiative, knowledge, reliability, working well with others and remaining drug free.
Shell said the biggest reason for his work on the legislation is that he’s hearing from business community leaders that those skills are lacking in many prospective employees.
“Always, the number one thing that they would talk about, besides the business climate in general, of things that they would like to see changed was the need for soft skills, the need for skilled employment whenever they came to their jobs,” Shell said.
Shell says that the legislation aims to reward schools who are already providing students with essential skills instruction, as well as get other district on board who might not be providing those lessons.
“The goal that I have in mind at the end of the day is that when a student graduates from a school in the state of Kentucky, they can go to an employer and say that I have the essential skills necessary and a drug-free lifestyle,” Shell said.
Shell admits there’s irony in the fact that many districts have improved test scores in core areas such as math, science, and reading, but may be neglecting the “soft skills” that employers say are essential for an employee to be successful.
“I had a teacher come up to me at a basketball game last year and she said, I’m not trying to graduate the smartest kids in the unemployment line, we want to be able to graduate smart kids that have the skills to go into the workforce to really bring added value, not only to their lives and their family, but also their community,” Shell said.
Ankur Gopal, CEO of Interapt, a software company in Louisville, told committee member that he’s seen first-hand that “essential skills” is something that many young people lack, and can potentially get an employee fired if they don’t have them.
“Communications skills, being able to talk to a supervisor, handling conflict, the stuff that we may take for granted in this room that we do day to day, there’s a tremendous lack of ability in a lot of people,” Gopal said. “I do believe that incorporating these types of programs into schools is not just another thing for teachers to have to do. If they really want Kentucky’s workforce to succeed, it’s something that we have to handle from the ground up.”