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Executive Summary

This section provides a brief overview of the Workforce Opportunity Project and summarizes some of the key points produced by the research. See the body of the report for more details about the results.

Objective

The Workforce Opportunity Project was a research survey of employers in eastern Kentucky conducted to identify the key job skills, personal traits, and education employers require in workers to fill current jobs and future jobs where growth is expected. The research was initiated and funded by Eastern Kentucky C.E.P., Inc. (EKCEP), a non-profit workforce development agency that has served the region since 1968.

Methodology

The Workforce Opportunity Project conducted 100 face-to-face interviews with a stratified random sample of employers in the 23 eastern Kentucky counties served by EKCEP. The industries represented were Healthcare, Mining, Construction, and General Business. Retail establishments and government entities were not included.

Of the employees represented by the companies surveyed, 85% are classified as Associates/Line workers. Coordinators account for 4% of the employees. Supervisors account for 5% of the employees. The remaining 6% are professionals and upper level employees.

Employment Outlook for the Next Five Years

Of the employers surveyed, 68% indicated that they would be hiring for at least one new position in the next five years. Employers in the Healthcare sector were more likely to say they would increase employment.

Employers were lukewarm in the confidence about their hiring plans. Only 56% said they were Extremely or Very Confident in their hiring forecasts.

Among those with hiring plans, growth in jobs was projected to be 31%. Associates/Line Workers accounted for 41% of planned job growth. Coordinators accounted for 27% and Supervisors accounted for 24%.

Critical Job Skills Needed By Employers for Current Jobs

These 11 job skills were identified as being critical for current jobs by 90% or more of the employers:

  • 301 VERBAL ABILITY
  • 408 MAKE DECISIONS
  • 201 MATHEMATICAL COMPUTATION
  • 303 MAINTAINS CONFIDENTIALITY
  • 417 FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS
  • 308 DELEGATE
  • 315 WORKS WELL WITHIN A TEAM
  • 401 READING COMPREHENSION
  • 410 TIME MANAGEMENT
  • 304 INSTRUCT/TEACH
  • 203 CRITICAL THINKING ABILITY

 

NOTE: The three-digit codes that appear alongside a job skill or personality trait throughout this report identify the occupational theme from Holland's Code to which that skill or trait corresponds. The explanation of Holland's Code appears on page 15.

Deficiencies in Critical Job Skills Needed By Employers for Current Jobs

Employers were asked to identify which of the job skills identified as critical they find lacking or deficient in their employees and applicants. The percentages of employers who deemed a skill as critical and also said it was deficient in their workforce are shown below:

  • 301 VERBAL ABILITY (32% found this skill deficient)
  • 408 MAKE DECISIONS (23% found this skill deficient)
  • 201 MATHEMATICAL COMPUTATION (39% found this skill deficient)
  • 303 MAINTAINS CONFIDENTIALITY (30% found this skill deficient)
  • 417 FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS (34% found this skill deficient)
  • 308 DELEGATE (21% found this skill deficient)
  • 315 WORKS WELL WITHIN A TEAM (39% found this skill deficient)
  • 401 READING COMPREHENSION (19% found this skill deficient)
  • 410 TIME MANAGEMENT (51% found this skill deficient)

 

Critical Personal Traits Needed By Employees for Current Jobs

The traits that employers identified as critical for employees were more likely to be those in the Traditional and Social skills categories. The top 10 personal traits employers identified as being critical were:

  • 804 EFFECTIVE PROBLEM-SOLVER
  • 501 HONESTY
  • 703 TEAM-PLAYER
  • 806 DECISION-MAKER
  • 503 STRONG WORK ETHIC
  • 808 WILLINGNESS TO LEARN
  • 701 RESOLVES CONFLICT
  • 809 FORWARD THINKING (TO FUTURE)
  • 505 PROFESSIONALISM
  • 605 CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

 

Deficiencies in Critical Personal Traits Needed By Employees for Current Jobs

Employers were asked to identify which of the personal traits identified as critical they find lacking or deficient in their employees and applicants. The percentage of employers who deemed a personal trait as critical and also said it was deficient in their workforce is shown below:

  • 804 EFFECTIVE PROBLEM-SOLVER (40% found this trait deficient)
  • 501 HONESTY (21% found this trait deficient)
  • 703 TEAM-PLAYER (31% found this trait deficient)
  • 806 DECISION-MAKER (24% found this trait deficient)
  • 503 STRONG WORK ETHIC (37% found this trait deficient)
  • 808 WILLINGNESS TO LEARN (28% found this trait deficient)
  • 701 RESOLVES CONFLICT (32% found this trait deficient)
  • 809 FORWARD THINKING (TO FUTURE) (26% found this trait deficient)
  • 505 PROFESSIONALISM (26% found this trait deficient)
  • 605 CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT (33% found this trait deficient)

 

Quadrant Analysis of Job Skills and Traits: Needs vs. Deficiencies

The Workforce Opportunity Project used a quadrant analysis to analyze the data on critical job skills and traits. This analysis will help EKCEP use the data in making decisions about strategies, policymaking, curriculum development, allocation of funds, and other aspects of their workforce development activities. The process of quadrant analysis and its results are explained further in the body of this report.

As an example, one quadrant analysis of the data for all Associates/Line Workers showed that the following job skills and personal traits are in need of focused development:

Job Skills

  • Skills requiring strength and fitness, such as stamina, strength, and agility
  • Repair and mechanical skills
  • Mathematical skills
  • Analytical, critical thinking, and ideation skills
  • Teamwork
  • Listening and verbal skills
  • Following instructions
  • Organization and time management
  • Detail focus and record keeping
  • Reading comprehension
  • Computer skills

Personal Traits

  • Work ethic
  • Continuous improvement
  • Industriousness and achieving goals
  • Being Open to constructive criticism
  • Being an effective problem solver

Critical Job Skills and Personal Traits Needed By Employers for Planned Jobs

The job skills and personal traits that employers identified as critical for the jobs they plan to create over the next five years are:

 

Job Skills

  • 111 Mechanical Abilities
  • 108 Repair
  • 404 Computer/Technical Literacy

Personal Traits

  • 503 Strong Work Ethic
  • 506 Dedication
  • 605 Continuous Improvement
  • 713 Open to Constructive Criticism
  • 809 Forward Thinking
  • 808 Willingness to Learn

Education and Training Needed By Employers for Planned Jobs

Employers identified a wide variety of training and education as being important for the jobs they plan to create over the next five years. No single training or education program or area of focus was identified by more than 14% of the respondents, indicating the diversity of opportunities in eastern Kentucky.

Employer Response to Market Outlook Questions

As a part of the research, employers responded to a series of open-ended market outlook questions pertaining to economic development, education, training, and leadership. Their key observations include:

  • A plurality of employers said that manufacturing jobs are needed in the region.
  • Employers would like to see economic development activity in eastern Kentucky.
  • Employers value education and training and would like to see more effort in this area.
  • Collaboration was a theme that resonated with the employers in this study.
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