ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) -- Killer labor is hard to find in Kentucky -- that's the word from local companies, some who are paying $70,000 a year.

Companies say a college education isn't for everyone. They say working after high school could make you more than $125,000 richer.

Grant Logsdon is an Associate Professor of Machine Tool Technology at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. He says, "Manufacturing is not disappearing as everyone thinks. It's in high demand, but we need more people to train. That's what we're looking for."

Twenty students at ECTC are on their way to becoming machinists. That includes Todd Gozzard, who goes to school in the day, then works four, 10-hour shifts at Atlas Machine and Supply in Louisville.  He's part of the company's four-year apprenticeship program which pays about $25,000 for the first year. But the company says that, by the fourth year of the program, he'll have made about $127,000 which he would not have made if he went to a four-year university.

Gozzard says, "I've learned a whole lot more than actually what you learn in school."

It costs about $10,000 for a two year associates degree in Machine Tool Technology. That includes tuition, books and supplies. But professors say it's all worth it since these students will have no trouble finding a job. Some local companies also help pay for the student's tuition, while other students qualify for financial aid.

Recognizing the need for skilled workers, the mayors of Louisville and Lexington have formed a new partnership called the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement. It's to develop a joint regional business plan supporting the growth of high-quality jobs in manufacturing.  The goals: quality job creation and increases in export activity.

Rich Gimmel, the President of Atlas says, "There seems to be a surplus of college graduates now and you can buy gas from a college graduate at Thornton's or Speedway making maybe $8 an hour, yet I have $70,000 machinists jobs that I can't fill."

But schools like this are hoping to change that, trying to put more emphasis on manufacturing.

Logsdon says, "Fifty to sixty percent of students learn better with their hands, visual, audio. That's how they learn." He says, "Sometimes we want to push everybody through a four-year university, yet they may be the best machinists around."

It's estimated that 40 percent of the skilled workforce will be retiring within the next five years.


The following is taken from a news release about the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement:

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray have initiated an innovative new partnership – the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement – to develop a joint regional business plan supporting the growth of high-quality jobs in advanced manufacturing. With existing centers of excellence in the sector in both communities, including Toyota, Ford, Raytheon, Lexmark, GE, Lockheed Martin and more, the mayors believe there is a unique opportunity to create a ‘super-region' that can compete on a global scale.

Mayors Gray and Fischer have secured the support of the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, which will bring substantial expertise and connections to this task. The project will use Brookings' "Metropolitan Business Plan" framework to develop a comprehensive economic development effort designed to nurture and support manufacturers and their supply chains. The goals: quality job creation and increases in export activity.

Jim Host, a trusted and proven community leader, has agreed to chair the initiative. The mayors and Mr. Host are assembling a small board of directors composed of business leaders from both communities to oversee the project. Mr. Host has asked Paul Costel, president of Chase Bank's Kentucky market, to chair an Advisory Committee which will help raise $250,000 to provide capital for the project. In addition, Mayor Fischer has committed 25 percent of the recently announced Bloomberg Grant for Innovation to the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement.

Commerce Lexington Inc. and Greater Louisville Inc., the chambers of commerce in each community, have agreed to help raise the funds, and leaders from both organizations will be assisting with the project. The plan for the region is expected to be completed by mid-2012.

Through the vision created by the entrepreneurial spirit of Mayor Fischer and Mayor Gray, this collaboration has the potential to be a game-changer for Kentucky. Strengthening the state's urban areas will lead to more prosperity for all its citizens. And this project is only the beginning. Lexington and Louisville have the opportunity to build on the partnership and explore common strengths well beyond advanced manufacturing, bringing global visibility and investment to the state.