Kentucky Labor Cabinet's Commissioner Dimeny Keynote Speaker at WKCTC
Discussed New Direction for State's Apprenticeship Program
Paducah, KY (05/17/2018) — Commissioner Ervin Dimeny of the Kentucky Labor Cabinet is an avid advocate for apprenticeship programs. That passion may have started when he was a young apprentice in his father's Mercedes car repair shop, where he became a licensed Mercedes technician - an opportunity he said helped him pay his way through law school at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.
Now serving as the commissioner for the Cabinet's Department of Workplace Standards, Dimeny holds the primary responsibility of enforcing Kentucky's occupational safety and health laws, and wage and hour laws.
As keynote speaker at West Kentucky Community and Technical College's Workforce Solutions annual Regional Business and Industry Partnership Luncheon May 15, he shared his apprenticeship story and explained the new direction for Kentucky's apprenticeship program to more than 50 business leaders and WKCTC faculty and staff. The luncheon was held in the college's Emerging Technology Center.
He discussed what he said is Governor Matt Bevin's vision to rebrand Kentucky into a manufacturing and engineering hub in North America. He said the governor instructed the Kentucky Labor Cabinet divisions to be "laser-focused" and intentional with plans to achieve that objective.
"To this extent, the team (Kentucky Labor Cabinet) charted out an aggressive course to fulfill this goal," Commissioner Dimeny said, adding some in the audience may be wondering how the Cabinet fit into the rebranding vision.
"I want to talk to you briefly today about two items, 'safety of workforce' and a 'skilled workforce.' This is our laser-focus within my department," he said reiterating the importance of intentionality. "I think it's very important to be intentional about what we do, whether it be finishing a degree or earning a high school diploma. Anything in life is really a lot more valuable if there is intention behind it," Commissioner Dimeny said.
He said one of several good signs is the continued improvement in the national workplace safety trend. "I'm also glad to report that the safety culture in Kentucky across sectors is improving," he said as he invited business owners and chamber of commerce representatives to market this idea.
Moving to the rebranding of the skilled workforce, Commissioner Dimeny said "Registered Apprenticeships are an employee-driven, workforce development formula. It's a model that an employer can adopt into its HR culture as a recruiting, training and retention model," he said. "It's a model that offers a very intentional partnership between employers, student apprentices, educators and policy makers. To this extent, we were very intentional on how we went about rebranding apprenticeships in Kentucky."
He said the new workplace skills brand included the creation of a division within the Kentucky Labor Cabinet that is dedicated to the service and support of local businesses, the state's Dual Credit Scholarship Program, which he said in the past two years increased dual credit enrollment by 69%, and according to the Council on Postsecondary Education, saved Kentucky families more than $5 million in tuition in one year. He also stated that as of 2018, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) monies will now be available to Kentuckians who choose not to attend a four-year college but instead want to be an apprentice, which can add high school graduates to the business apprentice pipeline.
In covering the implementation of rebranding workplace skills, Commissioner Dimeny said, "As of now, we have about 3,500 apprentices in Kentucky. Our team actually knocks on companies' doors one at a time; we partner with workforce investment boards to help scale it by connecting and building relationships. To those in the audience, he said "You have our commitment to partner and help this region, and anyone who is interested in learning more about this, we would love to help."
Brad Youngblood of Youngblood Excavating and Contracting in Mayfield is taking that commitment to heart. He is currently moving through the application process for an apprenticeship program at his company.
Dimeny said the apprentice job pool can include high school students, those from the Department of Juvenile Justice, in college, veterans, unemployed and those on a Medicaid waiver. Youngblood said his company would pull potential apprentices from these groups.
"It's been a great partnership so far. We are in the infancy stages," said Youngblood. "I appreciate all the hard work the Labor Cabinet is doing to help our businesses, And I do think that as business members in the community, it's up to us to create our workforce, and thank you guys (to Commissioner Dimeny) for providing the tools for us do so."
Youngblood said his introduction to the apprenticeship program was attending another meeting like the May 15 luncheon, followed by a visit from Commissioner Dimeny who had visited his company and explained the apprenticeship program in more detail and how would fit his business needs.
"I have not seen projects or processes like this go so smoothly. I think anyone here would be well-served to investigate this program," said Youngblood.
West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) has been recognized as an Aspen Prize Top 10 Community College four times awarded by the Aspen Institute and has twice been named a Finalist with Distinction for providing students with strong job training and continuing higher education opportunity, for achieving high completion and transfer rates, and for providing strong employment results for its graduates.