Local officials create a South Central Kentucky Workforce Participation Group to end unemployment

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A large group of officials in the area announced a new collaborative campaign Monday to help improve workforce participation.

The South Central Kentucky Workforce Participation Group is made up of local government agencies, school systems, higher education representatives and other workforce experts.

The unemployment rate as of last month was 4.2% in Kentucky.

But, Ron Bunch, the President and CEO of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, says the unemployment number is not an accurate representation of those who are unemployed in the area.

“I’m here to tell you the unemployment rate doesn’t mean anything,” said Bunch.

He says there are a large number of open jobs in the area.

Jon Sowards, the President of South Central Workforce Development Board, says there are many reasons that people have not come back to work.

“There’s fear of COVID and there’s employee COVID measures. There’s lack of childcare, generous social benefits, lack of transportation, and desire to work remotely, the rapid exit of baby boomers who have exited the labor force as I mentioned, changing attitudes towards work by generation X and millennials, the opioid crisis, believe it or not, has taken a lot of folks out of the workforce, disability rates and the list goes on,” said Sowards.

The group is a collaborative effort to help pinpoint why people have left the workforce and why they haven’t returned and then target those areas.

Some of the items discussed include upcoming workforce, students in grade school, WKU or SKYCTC.

Warren County Judge Executive Mike Buchanon says getting students into the workforce is important, even while they are still in school.

“If we can get them involved with businesses here before they graduate the chances are they’re going to stay,” said Buchanon.

Another big focus is the working to create or promote programs and pathways for new Americans, people getting out of jail and soldiers leaving Fort Campbell.

Sowards encourages everyone in the area to urge one another to be a part of the community and get back to work.

“Think about the quality of life that we enjoy in South Central Kentucky and think about in your personal instance, are you working or are you not working? If not, why not? Are your children working? If not, why not? If people you know aren’t working, can we influence them to get back to work?” said Sowards.

The group noted the issues some potential workers are having with both childcare and transportation noting their desire to try to expand services to help solve those issues.