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Building Kentucky’s Talent Pipeline

Bringing business, education, and workforce partners together to create high-quality, sustainable workforce solutions in Kentucky.

In 2018, the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center launched a statewide initiative seeking to build high-quality talent pipelines that foster economic growth.

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Kentucky is positioned well for tremendous economic growth, but the state’s goals are out of reach without qualified workers to fill key vacancies.

Empowering Employers to Lead In Workforce Development

The Challenge

For years, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce heard from its members that finding candidates with the right skills for their most critical jobs was becoming more and more challenging. This skills gap was damaging productivity, ballooning hiring costs and, in many cases, sacrificing economic growth opportunities as industry leaders couldn’t find the workforce needed to fill their current vacancies (let alone those needed to expand).

Kentucky is positioned well for tremendous economic growth, but the state’s goals are out of reach without qualified workers to fill key vacancies. Even with the pandemic’s impact, Kentucky employers are working towards overcoming talent solution challenges to help with the recovery and get Kentuckians back to work.

The Solution

Building a workforce that meets employers’ needs now, and in the future required direct input from employers on what critical positions they need to fill and what training or education is required to fill them. The state lacked a consistent method of bringing business, education, and workforce partners together to create and sustain the high-quality workforce needed for Kentucky’s continued economic prosperity.

To fill this gap, the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center launched “Building Kentucky’s Talent Pipeline” in 2018, a statewide movement to empower employers to lead workforce development in Kentucky. In partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development, the goal was to create and support at least 20 employer collaboratives across the state focused on building a talent pipeline for 60 critical jobs in key sectors: healthcare, manufacturing, construction, logistics, and business services/IT by July 2020.

At the core of this work is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) initiative. Using lessons learned from supply chain management, TPM provides the systematic and scalable approach employers needed to collaboratively build and manage quality talent pipelines for their most critical jobs.

This statewide implementation of TPM prioritized training nearly 40 carefully selected community leaders to identify areas of greatest need and to convene industry leaders at the local and regional levels. In addition, the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center hired a team of project managers tasked with managing and coordinating the day-to-day operations of TPM while aligning local efforts to the state vision. The result was a grassroots effort of communities convening industry collaboratives locally while guided and supported by state partners.

Building on its success and previous goal of establishing 20 employer collaboratives, in 2020, the Chamber escalated its goals to 25 collaboratives, with a sharp focus on developing solutions to ensure Kentuckians are trained, developed, and upskilled in the career pathways most needed to support Kentucky’s economy. Also, in 2020, the Kentucky Chamber partnered with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to educate an additional 40 Kentuckians, enabling more provider partners with the skills and knowledge on implementing talent supply chain solutions from their vantage point.

Collaborative Engagement

Building Kentucky’s Talent Pipeline is a public-private partnership with Kentucky’s Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development. The cabinet recognized that the secret sauce of effective workforce development was industry engagement and helped secure resources and support from state leaders to build TPM as an integral part of our workforce development effort.

Progress and Results

To date, Building Kentucky’s Talent Pipeline has formed 28 industry collaboratives comprising more than 200 industry leaders working together to build stronger talent pipelines. Out of these 28, 13 collaboratives are now well into implementation and building pipelines (Strategy 5) including some of these unique solutions:

  • Partnering with postsecondary health care leaders to modernize the clinical rotation model for a stronger pipeline of registered nurses.
  • Connecting students with entry-level health care jobs that provide professional experience and financial support to increase the students’ prospects of graduating as a registered nurse (RN).
  • Collaborating with a community college to create a deck hand training program preparing job seekers for lucrative, high-demand careers in the maritime industry.
  • Creating a new industry credential in the equine sector and hosting training workshops to recruit and train talent for critical jobs.

The collaboratives are working with community leaders to upskill licensed practical nurses into high demand, high-skilled positions (RNs) to improve retention and to fill a workforce need.

Key Partnerships

The Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center Board of Managers
Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development
Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
Local and regional chambers of commerce
Kentucky Community and Technical College System
Kentucky’s Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KYSTATS)
State and Regional Workforce Investment Boards


percentage of Kentucky businesses expecting moderate to high growth over the next 3-5 years


percentage of Kentucky businesses that struggled to find qualified hires


number of industry leaders active within collaboratives

Hurdles & Lessons Learned

One important lesson learned is that not all communities are ready for TPM. While many were ready and willing to adopt the new approach to building a business-aligned workforce, not all had the capacity, community support, or desire to launch this type of a project. This has been a hurdle but also helpful in prioritizing communities that are poised for this work and building relationships with leaders when communities are ready to adopt this style of workforce development.

Is This Model Repeatable?

TPM is an end-to-end process for employers to collaboratively find or create the right solutions for their problems. This allows TPM to be a scalable approach for industry leaders to work together in solving shared workforce challenges.

The Impact of COVID-19 on TPM Efforts

Most Kentucky employer collaboratives have reconvened and are actively building talent, particularly those whose urgency for filling talent is more pressing than ever. While some job projections had to be adjusted due to new realities in the industry, most are moving forward with their efforts to overcome continued talent challenges and see TPM as a tool for recovery.

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