Gov. Matt Bevin has launched a pilot program that will give high school graduates paid apprenticeships in Kentucky’s social services offices across the state.
The program provides apprenticeships to people interested in starting careers in social work who are impacted by generational poverty or haven’t had the opportunity to go to college.
Bevin said the state needs more people working in social services.
“These are not highly-skilled jobs, but they are critical jobs. They are jobs for which skills and training are needed. How better than through an apprenticeship training program,” Bevin said during a news conference announcing the program on Tuesday.
The apprenticeship program began earlier this year and provides training to begin entry-level jobs in local Department for Community Based Services offices, which are located in every county in the state.
Apprentices have to complete 144 hours of instruction and 2,000 to 3,000 on-the-job hours per year.
They can choose between three positions — office management, social services and family services — and participate in guided rotations.
DCBS Commissioner Adria Johnson said the apprentices will provide added bandwidth for the department, which helps provide benefits to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.
“That sheer number reflects the need for us to have an adequate resource and an adequate base of employees to best provide services for those families that need supports across Kentucky,” Johnson said.
Years of low pay and packed caseloads have led to high turnover among Kentucky social workers. But this year state lawmakers passed a budget that gives raises to state social workers, hires new workers and upgrades technology.
Johnson said the apprenticeship initiative will provide additional relief for overworked social workers while providing training to people who need it.
“We face turnover, we know we can’t always find a qualified workforce,” she said. “We know that we need a stable employment to also address situational poverty here in Kentucky.”
Officials said interested high school juniors and seniors should talk to guidance counselors to apply to the program.
This story has been updated.