Gateway, Covington: Job training critical

Collaborative efforts aim to build more highly skilled workforce
COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington Mayor Joe Meyer and Gateway Community & Technical College President Dr. Fernando Figueroa came together today to stress the importance of creating a more highly skilled workforce in Covington.

“With so many of our local residents underemployed, Gateway is committed to providing the education training that residents in the river cities need,” Figueroa said. “Gateway looks forward to working with the City of Covington and local employers to strengthen the workforce of the river cities.”

The mayor reiterated that message.

“The health of a city’s economy is driven by talent and skills,” Meyer said. “Covington looks forward to working with Gateway to identify and address areas where we can strengthen both our current and our future workforce while paying particular attention to the specific needs of our employers.”

Tuesday night, the Covington City Commission approved the purchase of two buildings owned by the Kentucky Community & Technical College System -- the umbrella organization to which Gateway belongs - to enable a private developer to begin a significant but as yet unannounced project that will create jobs in the urban core.

The adjacent buildings - which sit at Madison Avenue and Pike Street in a very visible part of Covington - include the landmark former home of the YMCA and a smaller building that was home to Gateway’s bookstore.

The agreement includes a stipulation that Gateway will be the primary partner for any workforce training that may be needed by companies attracted to the new development. The City expects to announce details of the pending project with the developer before the end of the year. 
That stipulation speaks to an important opportunity for Gateway and its various programs, given the ever-changing employer landscape in Covington, said the City’s economic development director, Tom West.
“Covington businesses need skilled workers, and we have eager workers living here that need skills,” West said. “That’s not an unemployment problem, that’s more what I call an ‘underemployment problem.’”

Covington’s labor participation rate is actually higher than the state and national averages, West said, and statistics show many residents work multiple jobs to make ends meet. The challenge is to focus that work ethic on jobs that require more skills and better wages.

“That doesn’t always mean going to college to get a degree; it could mean getting into an apprenticeship, taking courses to earn a certificate, on-line learning or a host of other opportunities to skill up for better pay and a better job,” West said. “I am excited that more people in the education and training community are embracing these models.”

Several initiatives are under way in support of that goal, college and City officials said.
  • Discussion recently has begun among the City, Gateway and Covington Independent Public Schools centered on “working with workforce development stakeholders in the region to address career counseling and training for low-income families,” Covington City Manager David Johnston said. The focus is not only on high school students but also on their parents, Johnston said.
  • Gateway points to its “River Cities Project” - a three-year strategic plan developed by a partnership among Gateway, six River Cities’ school districts, and Navigo College and Career Prep. The project aims to address the area’s educational and economic challenges to ensure all students, regardless of income or circumstance, have viable post-secondary opportunities that will lead to a successful life beyond high school.
At Gateway’s Urban Metro Campus in downtown Covington, that effort led Gateway to activate the logistics/supply chain and computer information technology/cyber security training hubs this past August. Furthermore, Gateway is on track to start two new hubs in 2020 at the Urban Metro Campus focused on health care and construction/skilled trades.
Explained Figueroa: “Gateway is determined to be a supportive network partner that meets the needs of students and families by creating curriculum and facilities that best serve Covington and all of the River Cities.”
  • Meanwhile, discussion at a recent meeting of the 1NKY Summit Series attended by City, Gateway and other workforce officials focused on increasing the pool of available workers throughout the Northern Kentucky region. The specific goal was to provide work-based learning experiences for secondary students within high-demand industry sectors via internships and apprenticeships. The summit was organized by the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance.
  • Recognizing that job training needs to start even earlier in a student’s life, for almost a year Mayor Meyer’s office has championed an early childhood literacy program designed to mobilize the entire community around getting the city’s youngest children off to a better start in their school career. Called “Read Ready Covington,” the initiative aims to increase the percentage of children who enter kindergarten prepared and able to do the work, and to increase the percentage of children reading on grade level by the end of the third grade. Almost two dozen community partners are helping the City push the use of early literacy apps, implement and publicize a marketing campaign, and get books in the hands of parents.
Figueroa said Gateway’s Urban Metro Campus currently has three locations supporting its mission.
  • The Technology, Innovation and Enterprise (TIE) building, at 516 Madison Ave., is utilized by more than 1,200 students. It offers state-of-the-art training and dual-credit opportunities in computer and information technology, criminal justice, early childhood development, and general education courses.
  • The Professional Services Building, on Scott Boulevard, houses Gateway’s massage therapy program and will begin hosting allied health programming in spring 2020.
  • The Transportation Technology Center, located off Dudley Pike in Fort Wright,offers Ford apprenticeships, automotive technology, diesel technology, collision repair, a rapidly-growing dual credit program, and an at-capacity CDL program. Gateway’s transportation programs serve over 400 students annually.
“The City of Covington and Gateway are perfectly positioned partners to strengthen the workforce of our region,” Figueroa said.

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