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Kentucky Jobs Forecast Shows Labor Shortage

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce did a nationwide forecast for job creation for 2010 to 2020, and found Kentucky should do pretty well.

Kentucky could expect 15 percent in overall job growth, from 1.8 million jobs in 2010 to 2.1 million in 2020. Researchers say these numbers depend on relative economic calm — basically no crippling depressions or recessions.

Within seven years, Kentucky will have a serious shortage in skilled labor. The report says nearly two-thirds of the state's workers will need something more than a high school diploma.   However, co-author Nicole Smith says the current workforce has just over half of the skills needed.

 ‘So the question is to what extent can we create the types of policies that are required to ensure that citizens of Kentucky are qualified to do the jobs that are coming,” said Smith.

Without the needed skills, Smith says employers might import the labor they need, either from outside the Commonwealth, or even the country.  Or the researcher says they might move to state where the workforce is better trained.

For the rest of this decade, the fastest growing employers in Kentucky will remain in the fields of healthcare and government. 

“During the majority of this recession, the only two sectors that continued to grow really were in health care and a little bit of government.  So, government held on a little bit there. And then more recently we’ve noticed that government is slowly, but carefully reducing the size of its workforce across the board,” said Smith.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce also predicts the economy will generate over a quarter-million jobs during the next seven years. 

 “We’re project demand. We looking at the industrial composition of the jobs, which industries are projected to grow fastest, what types of occupations are required to fill those jobs, and then what’s the level of education tomorrow that’s required,” said Dr. Nicole Smith, who helped prepare the report.

Smith says the mining and energy industries, while not a major factor in Kentucky’s economy, will also see growth, adding 5300 jobs over 2010 figures.  The only category with job loss is agriculture, forestry and fishing.  

Nationwide, researchers predict the economy will create 55-million new job openings over the next decade.  The report says 24-million openings will be for new jobs and 31-million will open up as baby boomers retire.

Four out of five of the fastest growing occupations — healthcare professional and technical, STEM, education, and community services — will require high levels of postsecondary education.

Charles Compton is a 30 year veteran of public radio, who has been news director at WEKU for five years, has won numerous awards for investigative journalism, soft features, science reporting, and newscasts from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc.
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