Last week, local business owners and community leaders met at the Lee S. Jones Building in Eddyville to discuss the possibility of Lyon County pursuing the designation of a "Work Ready Community."
According to thinkkentucky.com, a Kentucky Work Ready Community certification is meant to be a designation of a county's workforce quality, and can be attractive to new businesses and industry looking for a place in the state to set up shop.
There are five criteria a county has to meet in order to be certified as Work Ready:
• 100 percent internet availability and speed of 25 Mbps or higher
• 90 percent high school graduation rate
• 43-percent of residents with some college or higher degree
• 25 percent of residents with an Associate degree or higher
• 15 percent or less of the working age population (18-64) without a high school diploma
Previously, Lyon County was unable to meet these benchmarks because the prison population was counted among the county's residents, which drove down education percentages. Recently, it was decided Lyon County no longer has to count those who are incarcerated in their figures, which means that the county now meets four of the five criteria.
The only area where Lyon County falls short is the requirement for 25 percent of residents to have an Associate degree or higher (Lyon County currently sits at 22 percent in this stat).
It is important to note that, while internet speeds in Lyon County are notoriously slow, with some places unable to receive internet service at all, this program considers all Kentucky counties to meet the internet benchmark because of mobile devices.
Lake Barkley Partnership Executive Director Amanda Davenport lead the meeting last week, and told those in attendance that she hoped to gauge the opinion of whether this designation is something residents wish to pursue. She also encouraged those in attendance to find ways to work conversation about Work Ready requirements into other community meetings, and not just reserve them for Work Ready specific meetings.
While no ultimate decision on whether to pursue the Work Ready designation was made at the meeting, attendees spent about an hour discussing issues they believe have prevented the expansion of industry and availability of new jobs and business opportunities in the community, including the lack of high-speed internet options, the unavailability of rental homes/apartments, and high home costs.
They also discussed ways to draw Lyon County graduates back to work in the community as adults, and the possibility of beginning job shadowing programs to encourage more students to explore trades in the area.