Project Paragon Final Report

HRD Strategies, Inc. has released the final report from the Project Paragon workforce development initiative in South Central Kentucky region. The conclusions and recommendations are summarized for your reference.


The study’s design is one based in empirical research and intends to provide post-secondary institutions a firm rationale upon which to redefine programs, course content and degree options based upon industry needs in the SCKY region.  There was an eight  percent return rate from the respondents. Researchers indicate the response rate is acceptable, as this audience is particularly difficult in securing participation due to the nature of the time consuming work processes found in most work environments.  It is possible that the respondents had the greatest need and thus provided even greater valid information.


Kentucky’s talent pipeline system of universities, technical colleges, proprietary educational organizations,  local Chambers of Commerce and county governments are recommended to take the lead to implement the following initiatives:

  1. Align Leadership. Align the strategic needs of SCKY in a workforce development system that provides workers with the skills and complex needs of industry clusters such as healthcare, advanced manufacturing, hospitality, financial services, etc. Organizations are confused as to whom to engage when they have needs specific to their industry.  The academic, government and non- government leaders should exercise sustained collaborative advocacy for workforce development, innovate the current system and processes and collaborate on a regional-wide agenda for the growth and economic well-being of the SCKY region.  A workforce development system should be created to eliminate the bureaucracy and structural competiveness within the region among the Chambers of Commerce DELO, Community Colleges, WKU and private sector providers.  There has to be agreement among all the parties that the current environment within the region has to be changed for the overall health of the economy, community and citizens.  
  1. Develop and Retain Talent. Create a seamless and open-ended system with single source and point of origin access of identifying students in high school who may choose workforce-oriented programs at technical colleges and, for those aspiring to higher levels, directs them on to baccalaureate degrees. Adapt the current Learn and Earn System offered by WKU to all eligible students whether in secondary or post-secondary institutions. (Attachment 5) Employers need to engage and commit to the system, and use it as a talent acquisition tool and a talent retention tool for incumbent employees.  Employers are not taking advantage of the potential quality workforce available that this program offers.
  2. Recruit and Acquire Talent. Create an independent nonprofit organization that recruits talent to the region, allowing organizations to provide incentives while local conduits are constructed to attract and deliver talent to those counties requiring a definitive career cluster. This organization should represent the SCKY region as a whole, with appropriate representation from those citizens who have a stake in driving talent to the region.  This will require a “boots on the ground” strategy in areas of the country that may be experiencing a down economy or have a supply of qualified candidates motivated by quality of life, compensation, fringe benefits, and company incentives for relocation to the region.   Please see Attachment 1 for regional data regarding contiguous states and the projected job openings.
  3. Leverage Workforce Training and Resources. Engage the Regional Kentucky Career Center (KCC) to become a more comprehensive and agile provider of screening and selection services by providing the resources for basic skills and behavioral based testing of all applicants. KCC counselors may direct those with needs to the appropriate resources for remedial training and forward on to the organization those applicants who meet the organization’s criteria.  Additionally, a “Professional Workplace Skills” class should be mandatory for every applicant to develop “soft skills” as identified in this study.  The workshop could be facilitated by the WKU, KCC, or SKYTCC staff.  This workshop should also be made available to SCKY regional employers as a tool for onboarding and incumbent workforce training funded through existing allocated monies from the state.
  4. Integrate Practical Skills with Degree Programs. The most impact would come from introducing non-elective course curricula and content directly related to skills required to be successful on the job. Knowledge based learning is the foundation, however practical utilization of that knowledge is imperative.  General baccalaureate degree requirements must include: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Six Sigma, Workforce Participation and Professionalism, Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Skills, Finance and Enterprise Resource Planning. Additionally, Advanced Computer Operations in an imperative for specific industry clusters and advanced (super user) computer skills in word processing, spreadsheet operations, presentation tools, data base management, social media, internet and cloud computing is recommended.  Enhance baccalaureate degrees, associate degrees and technical certifications to include on the job training via co-ops, internships, job sharing, the WKU Learn and Earn scholarship program.  A national, Kentucky, and three adjoining state projection of jobs report for the state through 2022 has been included as a reference in Attachment 1.[1]

[1] Projection Centeral(

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