New 'Fast Forward' report highlights mixed bag of achievements, - WDRB 41 Louisville News

New 'Fast Forward' report highlights mixed bag of achievements, slowdowns, in race to improve Louisville economy

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A new report argues that Louisville is, "on the cusp of creating a vibrant and innovative economy," but "urgency, new thinking, more high-wage jobs and stronger partnerships between education providers and employers are needed to increase momentum," according to a news release from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's office.

The report, called "Fast Forward," was issued jointly by 55,000 Degrees and KentuckianaWorks.

"The future of our city depends on having more high-wave jobs, which in turn needs more highly skilled employees," Mayor Fischer said. "This report and summit illustrate the progress our community has made, and also the formidable challenges that we must tackle with a new sense of urgency."

The report is said to be a mixed bag of significant achievements and slowdowns in various areas. According to the news release, Louisville reached a record high for education attainment in 2014, with 41.7 percent of the working-age population with an associate degree or higher, but the growth rate has slowed for two years in a row. Meeting the goal of having 50 percent of residents with at least an associate degree by 2020 will require growth of about 1.5 points a year.

"The difference between our current trend line and where we need to be to reach our goal is striking," said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees. "The data make it clear that we need an 'all-hands-on-deck' community effort to close this gap."

The report emphasizes that improvements will be necessary in the following areas:

  • Enabling adult "come-backers" -- the 95,000 adults in Louisville who have started but not finished college -- to complete their degrees;
  • Creating more high-wage, high-skilled jobs to attract new talent and keep more college graduates, including out-of-state and international students, in Louisville;
  • Ensuring current or potential students graduate, especially those historically underserved, and expanding opportunities to earn college credits while still in high school;
  • Making sure students and job seekers have the information they need to make good education and career decisions.

"This report underscores that we are on the right track with collecting and analyzing workforce information, but we need to hear more clearly and directly about the needs of employers," said Michael Gritton, executive director of KentuckianaWorks, according to the release. "Then, we must accelerate our efforts in sharing that information with students, parents and people already in the workforce so they can make informed decisions about their careers.

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