Winchester Career Center to see state employee cuts

Beginning in February, Clark County residents may have to seek assistance finding employment and job training from sources outside Winchester.

According to a statement from Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner, the cabinet will reorganize its 51 career centers into 12 hubs with eight existing satellite offices effective February 16.

As part of the reorganization, employees from the Office of Employment and Training will be pulled out of 31 local career center offices, including the Winchester office on West Lexington Avenue and the Richmond office.

“We strongly believe that this plan is in the best interest of the employers, job seekers and tax payers of the Commonwealth,” Heiner said. “It will allow us to serve our customers and operate the state’s workforce services within the federal grant that we receive.”

Full-time OET staff will be concentrated in 12 “hubs” located in Bowling Green, Covington, Elizabethtown, Hazard, Hopkinsville, Lexington, Louisville, Morehead, Owensboro, Paducah, Prestonsburg and Somerset.

Additionally, eight satellite offices will remain in operation in Fort Knox, Mount Sterling, Whitesburg, McKee, Manchester, Jackson, Monticello and Albany.

“EWDC will work with local workforce development boards (LWDB) to determine future service delivery models and staffing levels at these locations,” according to a statement from cabinet spokesperson Kim Brannock.

Heiner said the removal of OET employees from the 31 other locations does not necessarily mean they will close.

“The cabinet will work with the local Workforce Development Boards and other state and local partners and officials to determine if the affected local offices will continue to operate and how best to deliver those services,” Heiner said.

However, Cora Heffner, director of Clark County Community Education and Schools-to-Careers coordinator, said her office has not yet had any communication with state or local officials on the future of the Winchester career center.

“We have been talking about this, and who (the closure) would affect the most are the people who are least likely to have computers and internet services,” Heffner said.

She said equiring people who are often undereducated and poor to go to Lexington in order to get help finding a job or workforce training creates barriers that can discourage them.

Heffner hopes community members can come together to help continue services locally in some form, referencing community resources like Bluegrass Community and Technical College, the adult education center, the Clark County Public Library and Clark County Public Schools.

“We as a community need to come together and address this,” she said.

The 95 OET employees affected by the reorganization will have the opportunity to transfer to other locations within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet or another cabinet within state government.