The listening tour has begun! | KCTCS

The listening tour has begun!

by Dr. Paul Czarapata, KCTCS President - September 7, 2021

Last week, I started my 16-college listening tour. Even though I’ve been a part of KCTCS for 20 years, I’m new at being responsible for every facet of the system. I believe it’s important to visit with faculty, staff, community leaders and legislators all around the state so I can get a good grasp of the issues and challenges in each region. The ideas I hear during the tour will play an important role in the development of our new strategic plan. 
Joining me for most of the visits is our KCTCS Board of Regents Chair Lisa Desmarais. This is significant for two reasons – it’s good for her to hear from attendees first-hand and it’s good for them to hear from her. Most faculty and staff have not had a chance to discuss their concerns and ideas with a KCTCS board chair or to hear directly from a board chair about board priorities. The same is true for community and business leaders as well as legislators.  
We’ve only visited two colleges so far, but we’re hearing that people aren’t aware of the types of technical programs and workforce development training we offer. I’m hoping our exchange of ideas and information during the tour will help change that.  
Plus, we’re hearing directly from business leaders about just how strapped they are for good employees. After visiting colleges on opposite ends of the state, I can already see a pattern developing in the input I’m getting from businesses.   
For anyone who thinks it’s easy to get a decent paying job without a college credential, I want to relay input from a business owner from the Owensboro area. A woman who owns a poultry business said everything in her business is based on technology – even down to how much feed her chickens need each day. To be employed at her company, people need tech skills. Without them, she said the only job available is picking up dead chickens. I think it’s safe to say very few would want that job! However, this story illustrates the need for tech skills in every industry. 
This is the type of specific feedback we need so that we can help tell employers’ stories and educate prospective students about today’s careers. We must be certain that as we move forward, we’re providing what businesses, students, faculty and staff need. I’m looking to do this through the lens of KCTCS being equitable, agile, responsive and streamlined in everything we do.  
Far too often, we fall down the rabbit hole of thinking everything is important. As everyone knows, if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. That’s why these discussions are so worthwhile. We’ll know exactly what the priorities are and where to focus our efforts. 
Not only the future of KCTCS, but also the future of our communities and our state depend on us getting this right in our new strategic plan. Thanks so much to everyone who’s contributed so far. I look forward to the rest of the tour, which runs through November.