State Education Official Explain The Value Of Postsecondary Education
Paducah, KY (04/14/2023) — With technology changes like robot-operated vehicles and self-checking machines at department stores already signaling changes in society, the need for skilled workers will be even more important in the future, said Dr. Rick W. Smith Sr., vice president for external relations and economic partnership for the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).
"People need to come to the new reality that you must have some sort of training if you want to be successful in the workforce of the future," Dr. Smith told more than 400 business, community, and education leaders during the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce Power in Partnership (PIP) breakfast at the McCracken County Convention and Expo Center April 13.
Several high school students from Paducah and McCracken County who were part of the Youth LEAD Class #12 led a portion of the meeting. Their class, about 20 students, received blue cords to signify their graduating from the leadership program.
West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC), the breakfast sponsor, invited Dr. Smith to speak at the event. Dr. Anton Reece, president of WKCTC, introduced WKCTC graduates Ben Willett, Leah Beach, and Jade Townsley, who participated in the WKCTC Community Scholarship Program, transferred to Murray State University, and now work in Paducah.
Retaining employees and employers in the region was one of Dr. Smith's messages. He also said the public must understand the true meaning of postsecondary education. "It's not just four-year institutions," he said. "It's getting a CDL or certificate. Really, it's any kind of training after high school."
Higher education must also change how it trains people, Dr. Smith said, noting that 99% of the jobs of the future will require some sort of technical skills. While the public may be skeptical of the importance of higher education, Dr. Smith said research shows that employers are looking for employees with communication, technical, and critical thinking skills.
A Louisville resident, Dr. Smith has over 30 years of experience in higher education administration, nonprofit leadership, healthcare administration, public relations, crisis communications training, marketing, business development, diversity training, and television news.
He previously served as the President and CEO of the United Way of Ross County, Ohio, and Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Community Relations of the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College in Warren, Pa. Dr. Smith also operates Smith Consulting Solutions, SCS Inc., a consulting firm specializing in fund development, crisis management, media training, presentation skills training, public relations, marketing, and diversity equity & inclusion.
A published author and speaker, Dr. Smith has received a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast communication from the University of Louisville, a Master of Business Administration from Kennedy Western University, a Master in Philanthropic Studies degree from Indiana University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Bradley University.
"There's a perception that when you are going to college, you are going to bring up a lot of debt; you're going to graduate, and you're not going to get a job," Dr. Smith said. "Our statistics easily tell us that there are plenty of jobs that are out there; we just need to get people the training."
Dr. Smith said he and other CPE personnel have spent a great deal of time talking and listening to employers around the state and then taking that research to design curriculum to meet the demands of today's workforce and tomorrow's."It's up to all of us to speak up about the value of education," he said.
Registration is underway now for summer and fall classes at WKCTC. For more information, call 270.534.3435 or visit westkentucky.kctcs.edu.