Gov. Bevin today announced an innovative new registered apprenticeship pilot program aimed at strengthening social services careers throughout the Commonwealth.
Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey, Health and Family Services Acting Secretary Scott Brinkman, Personnel Secretary Tom Stephens, Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) Commissioner Adria Johnson, and Associate Commissioner for the Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE) Laura Arnold joined Gov. Bevin to launch the program, which will provide increased opportunities for individuals pursuing a social services career in state government.
One of the first of its kind in the country, this initiative will offer paid apprenticeship opportunities in local Protection and Permanency and Family Support offices within DCBS, part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).
The program will offer apprenticeships to young adults who are interested in pursuing a career in social services but may not have the opportunity to go to college, have never considered secondary education, or are impacted by generational poverty.
“Whether it’s a junior in high school who is dreaming of a career that gives back to the community, or a college student looking for a pathway into the social services field, this apprenticeship program will fundamentally change the way that the Commonwealth of Kentucky recruits and trains public servants for rewarding careers within DCBS,” said Gov. Bevin. “Apprenticeships are a proven training model that will enhance the way we provide social services throughout the Commonwealth, and we are exploring other areas where we can further use this program to recruit and retain the next generation of public servants in Kentucky.”
The pilot program began earlier this year as a co-op for high school students interested in social services careers. Curriculum will require a minimum of 144 classroom and 2,000 to 3,000 on-the-job training hours per year and will include opportunities within DCBS offices in Frankfort and across the state. In addition to mid-career professionals, the program will be available to both high school and college students, and eligible high school juniors and seniors may enroll in the Department of Education’s Tech Ready Apprenticeship for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) to obtain dual secondary and postsecondary credits while earning an apprenticeship wage.
TRACK students and apprentices will have the option of choosing from one of three different positions within the Protection and Permanency and Family Support offices: Office Manager/Administrative Services, Human Social Services, and Human Family Services. Participants will acquire working knowledge of each role through guided learning and rotations through each function area and position.
DCBS Commissioner Adria Johnson said the apprenticeship program is an innovative way to equip students with the tools they need to begin social services careers.
“We are so pleased to be a part of this collaboration to attract and train more social services staff,” Commissioner Johnson said. “Prospective social services workers get an in-depth education through this program – especially from pairing with our veteran front-line and central office staff. Human services is such a dynamic profession, and this apprenticeship program will help us prepare capable, compassionate caseworkers who are committed to helping Kentucky’s children and families have a better life.”
Commissioner Johnson said the apprenticeship program will help DCBS to train and retain social services staff by removing the barriers to education and training that some applicants may face. She said the program will ensure high standards for new employees who work directly with families.
“When P-12 education works together with postsecondary education and business, or in this case state government, we can pave the pathway for student’s to have successful careers after high school,” Interim Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said. “Through the TRACK program, students get a head start on college by taking dual credit courses while still in high school; they gain on-the-job work experience that will make them more valuable in the workplace and provide employers with qualified workers; and they can earn a paycheck that can support additional education and training. This opportunity is a win for everyone involved.”
This unique partnership between the TRACK program and the Commonwealth allows students interested in a social services career to gain experience while they are obtaining their formal education and enables DCBS to train the workforce of tomorrow while providing opportunities to current students.
The Labor Cabinet acts as the governing body for registered apprenticeships in Kentucky, and provides technical and consultative services to employers.
“The ‘Kentucky Trained. Kentucky Built.’ registered apprenticeship initiative focuses not only growing the apprenticeship model throughout the state, but engaging underserved populations to help fill critical industries in need of a shot in the arm,” Secretary Ramsey said. “This unique collaboration is helping to bring the power of apprenticeships to great careers within state government, and I applaud the DCBS for wanting to cultivate a new wave of public servants who will help move the Commonwealth forward. This program is one of the first of its kind in the nation, and I’m excited to showcase another way that Kentucky is pioneering solutions in workforce development through innovative ideas like this one.”
As the demand for skilled public employees increases, the Personnel Cabinet is looking to apprenticeships to create a pipeline for entry-level workers in a variety of areas, and the model used by DCBS can be replicated across state government agencies.
“DCBS employees provide critical services in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties,” said Secretary Stephens. “These critical positions are especially difficult to fill in a tight labor market. This program has the ability to change that. An apprenticeship program will help Kentuckians specifically prepare for these important jobs, and in turn, help better meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens. I’m truly excited about the possibilities this program will provide.”
Dr. Robert Lerman, an Institution Fellow at the Urban Institute, professor of economics at American University, and one of the nation’s leading experts on apprenticeships, has long advocated for increased public investment into the apprenticeship model and praised the announcement.
“Kentucky is lucky to have outstanding leaders who are making apprenticeship expansion a top priority and who have a strong bias for action,” said Dr. Lerman. “Their efforts to scale up apprenticeships will widen productive opportunities for workers while increasing the success of Kentucky’s businesses and nonprofit employers.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, for every dollar spent on apprenticeships, employers gain $1.47 in return through increased productivity, reduced waste, and greater front-line innovation.
“Simply put, apprenticeships within state government have the potential to bring important long-term cost savings to Kentucky taxpayers,” Secretary Ramsey said. “Apprenticing social services positions at the DCBS is only the beginning for implementing this training model in other agencies. Today’s announcement is a huge victory for children and families across the Commonwealth.”
Interested Kentucky high school juniors and seniors can contact their guidance counselors to the begin the process of applying for Fall 2018 semester apprenticeships.