It’s almost impossible to believe the Kentucky Community and Technical College System is now 18 years old. We’ve made great strides in meeting our mission to improve the lives and employability of Kentuckians during that time.
I’m proud of all we’ve achieved, but we can’t be stuck in the past or do things the way we’ve always done them. We are focusing on the future, and we have a new strategic plan that is our roadmap for moving forward.
All of our focus is on student success and training people for good jobs, whether that means they earn credentials in career education and go right to work, or transfer to one of our four-year partners.
When I began this job about 18 months ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about my goals and aspirations for KCTCS. As you can imagine, we focus a great deal of our resources on recruitment and helping people of all ages enroll in a college program. For me, that’s not enough. My goal is for students not only to enroll, but also to complete college.
That’s difficult for many of our students. The average age of our students is 27, so many of them are juggling family and jobs along with college. Job responsibilities, sick children and other life issues get in the way, and sometimes college moves to the back burner.
They also get jobs and drop out before completing their programs. Don’t get me wrong. We’re happy they’re employed. But we have to find ways to get them to stick with their program even after they go back to work. This is becoming more important than ever before.
Our state faces many changes in the workforce and job outlook over the next several years. We know that most jobs already require some type of postsecondary credential, and that will only continue to increase. We also know that a large number of our workforce will be retiring as Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age in droves.
Even though unemployment numbers are down, many people are working in low paying jobs. That’s mainly because a large portion of Kentucky’s workforce is undereducated. We have a big barrier in our state when it comes to convincing people how important higher education is. It’s a cultural issue that won’t change overnight. But, that doesn’t mean we won’t try to change it.
We’re getting the word out that KCTCS offers hundreds of programs that can be completed in four months or less. Starting salaries for some of these jobs are as high as $60,000. That’s a big payoff for a short-term investment.