Frankfort, KY – Unemployment rates in Kentucky are climbing, with at least 17 counties now reporting jobless rates exceeding 13-percent. The state is experiencing extended shutdowns at manufacturing plants combined with numerous layoffs and plant closings. Kentucky's unemployment insurance fund has dropped from more than 200-million dollars to zero, and now relies on borrowed money from the federal government. But Governor Beshear says the statistics only hint at the misery.
"Behind every impersonal number is the face of a family in crisis. As governor, I see these faces as I travel around the state. They're lined with worry, with frustration and with outright fear," said Beshear.
Beshear says the state is doing everything it can to help, by providing families with short-term unemployment benefits and other forms of assistance. But he says long-term assistance is needed. That's why he's getting behind a career transitions program now being offered at community and technical colleges across the commonwealth.
"This program will help Kentucky reshape its economy by meeting the projected demand for workers in key areas. It's designed to provide Kentuckians who have lost their jobs with workforce training in high growth, high wage fields," said Beshear.
Kentucky Community and Technical College President Michael McCall says the two-year colleges are perfectly positioned to offer such a program.
"It's a year-long initiative that's being offered at all 16 of our colleges, the 67 campuses, and it features a 50-percent tuition scholarship, for up to six credit hours per term - spring, summer, and fall - in open enrollment courses, along with personalized assistance to help navigate throughout the college admissions process," said McCall.
McCall says colleges also will provide advisers and training sessions that will maximize a student's chances of success and re-employment. He says unemployed Kentucky residents who have filed for unemployment benefits since October 1, 2008 are eligible for the program.
"The achievement here is to simply get them started into college. And so, the piece that they have to do of course is to meet all the admissions requirements and we'll do a tuition waver for these students, a scholarship for them," said McCall.
McCall says the career transition program could save some students more than a thousand dollars a year, depending on how many courses they take per semester. Roger Thompson of Cadiz is already in the program and has no complaints.
"I'm thoroughly impressed with it. Yes, I am," said Thompson.
Thompson worked for automotive supplier Johnson Controls in Trigg County for almost 14 years, before being laid off last year. He's now studying electronics at Hopkinsville Community College.
"I've been enrolled since January for the spring semester and it's been working for me. They are giving me the break on tuition. Nothing's had to come out my pocket thus far," said Thompson.
Also taking advantage of the career transitions program is Gary Dixon of Princeton, who also got laid off by Johnson Controls. He encourages other unemployed Kentuckians to give the program a serious look.
"Well, I think, you know, if they really want some help, it will help you out through computer training, some math refresher courses, any kind of help they offer, they offer you a lot," said Dixon.
Michael McCall says it's too early to put a price tag on the program, but if enough Kentuckians take advantage of it, he says he will work hard to make sure it's continued in future years.