There is an industry term being used at colleges and universities called the “Great Interruption.” You may have heard of a similar term called the 'Great Resignation,' or the increased number of employees who are not returning to work or who resigned from their jobs.
The “Great Interruption” describes something much more concerning: the high percentage of people, particularly young adults, who are not enrolling in college.
We are already starting to see the impact of this 'Great Interruption' in Eastern Kentucky. Empty chairs in college classrooms equal fewer nurses and healthcare workers, welders, teachers, accountants, computer programmers, business leaders, etc. Delays for medical appointments, longer waits for car and house repairs, and larger classroom sizes for children mean stress on an already strained workforce. What will our region look like in only a few short years? The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce recently reported in March 22, 2022 “…Kentucky had an estimated 210,000 open jobs and a workforce participation rate of 58.1 percent. Kentucky’s workforce participation rate is four points below the national average and ranks in the bottom 10 among the 50 states.” Many of these open positions require a minimal amount of training, as little as four weeks, such as Truck Driving/CDL, Medical Nurse Aid, Welding, and others.
There has never been a greater time to enroll at a college or university than now. Employers in our area are offering tuition reimbursement programs. The Kentucky Work Ready Scholarship is available to cover tuition for high-wage, high-demand programs at KCTCS colleges. Colleges and Universities have expanded grants and scholarships. The costs to attend higher education is more affordable than ever.
In-person classes, online courses, work and learn programs or apprenticeships are available. We share the vision of a stronger region, and I ask you today to partner with me to create the 'Great Comeback.' Community and technical colleges, universities, and every post-secondary training program and employer in our area need you to get involved.
We need you to encourage children, grandchildren, friends and colleagues to help us get people back to school, particularly 18-27-year-old adults. Let's rethink our future post-COVID, create a “Great Comeback,” and a strong future for our mountain region.