How Northern Kentucky is Building Tomorrow’s Workforce

October 18, 2016

Northern Kentucky is an interesting place, a sprawling community on the banks of the Ohio River and only minutes from Cincinnati. Being so close to a big city, it would be easy to lose a sense of community and identity, but this isn’t the case here.

In Northern Kentucky, the sense of community and people’s desire to work together runs deep. So, what makes this region so special? If you ask Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce CEO Trey Grayson, it’s the community spirit and desire to give back for future generations. “The entire community has joined forces to collectively solve some of our most difficult challenges,” says Grayson. “We’re trying to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts and make sure our children, and our businesses, are set up to succeed.”

For Polly Page, Executive Director of the Northern Kentucky Education Council, this collaborative spirit has really helped Northern Kentucky move forward. All 18 public school districts in the region work together through the Council, as well as with postsecondary institutions, community partners, and business leaders. “They all recognize the importance of investing in our children’s success,” says Page.

The business community has played an integral role in helping Northern Kentucky move forward. All of the major employers in the area are deeply committed to education, including St. Elizabeth Healthcare, PNC Bank, and Duke Energy.

For Rhonda Whitaker, District Manager of Government and Community Relations at Duke Energy, helping students make the connection between what they learn in school and career opportunities is critical to building a strong workforce. According to Whitaker, “Our business community really understands the importance of workforce development in ensuring that our community and our economy thrive for many years to come … we’re building a talent pipeline that is changing lives in our region.”

As an educator, this notion of building a talented workforce rings true for Geoff Mearns, President of Northern Kentucky University. Mearns knows that a large percentage of the jobs that will exist in twenty years don’t exist today, which is why he is focused on supporting the entire education spectrum. “We need to start preparing students from a very early age—helping them to be nimble, creative, and to be adaptable to the changing workforce,” says Mearns.

This level of support and encouragement from the community is inspiring students, too. “Our teachers are some of the best,” says Ryshawn Cliff, a student at Glenn O. Swing Elementary School. “I want to be distinguished in every class and maybe even change the world some day!”

Creating the workforce of tomorrow requires investing in human capital where it matters most: in the classroom. This is why educators, teachers, parent, and business and community leaders are working together to support students in Northern Kentucky.

Meet all of the “Voices” of Northern Kentucky here.


Lucy Davidson is manager of programs at USCCF’s Center for Education and Workforce.