The 10-county region of south central Kentucky currently has several thousand open jobs. Business and education leaders are working on multiple fronts to attract and train workers to fill those positions.
One major reason for the shortage of workers in Kentucky, and across the nation, is the retirement of large numbers of Baby Boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964.
Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ron Bunch said even as the region tries to fill those thousands of current vacancies, the number of open positions is expected to increase dramatically in the future.
"It looks like, from the model here, that the retirements are going to accelerate over the next five and then 10 years," said Bunch. "So the challenges we’re feeling in the talent situation currently, the mismatch of supply and demand, looks like it gets more pronounced in five and more pronounced in 10.”
Bunch says that short supply of workers is in demand across seven major market segments - healthcare, professional services, public services, construction, manufacturing, hospitality, and logistics.
“We’re involved in a number of different initiatives because there’s no one silver bullet, ‘cause again, we as a country have never seen the scale of this transition," said Bunch. "And so we’re trying to get all hands on deck to work their facet, to help us balance supply and demand.”
One chamber initiative to get “all hands on deck” in south central Kentucky is SCK Launch. It’s a collaboration among the chamber of commerce, Bowling Green and Warren County schools, and businesses. The goal of the project is to encourage students to start on a career pathway and enter the local workforce with education and skills that can set them on a path to a success – and keep the talent in south central Kentucky.
Bunch said the chamber is also collaborating with young professionals and alumni groups to recruit workers.
According to recent figures from Pew Research, the Baby Boomer labor force has been declining by more than two million workers each year since 2010, or about 5,900 daily. However, many Boomers are staying in the workforce past the traditional retirement age of 65.