PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson was in the mountains on Thursday, discussing the role of higher education in the future of our region. Three topics were the focus at the workforce development forum held at Big Sandy Community and Technical College Prestonsburg. Speakers discussed the importance of collaboration, real life training, and having high expectations.
Having a strong and stable workforce is something officials say Kentucky wants and needs.
Lt. Gov. Abramson explains, "I hear it from all CEOs of businesses throughout Kentucky...for them to expand, they have to be assured they are going to have a skilled and productive workforce."
To be successful former Secretary of Education, Laura Owens, says everyone needs some type of post secondary education or training.
"That puts a lot of pressure on the community college system...there are 16 in the state and this (Big Sandy) is one of the finest we have," says Abramson
Officials say the reality is the economy is changing, and the region's main industry continues to decline.
Senator Ray Jones says, "Being able to work in the same coal mine for 42 years, with the same company, in a union mine, retire with pension and benefits...those days are over."
That is where collaboration to create new opportunities comes into play.
"We've seen transformation start to take place, but we are behind and we have a lot of catching up to do. As Eastern Kentuckians the one thing I will not tolerate is people criticizing Eastern Kentucky but as Eastern Kentuckians we should expect more from ourselves," says Senator Jones.
Expecting more by being proactive in all situations. "We need to work on saving coal jobs we have, getting some back that we have lost, and also make plans if we aren't successful in those efforts,' says Jones.
With the common goal of creating a promising future for the region.
All officials at Thursday's event agree that community colleges are on the front line of making Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky competitive in the workforce.