Study Shows Students Willing to Move Back to Northeast Kentucky Region for the Right Opportunity

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

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Northeast Kentucky Development recently completed a study to better understand the workforce pipeline within their region. The study surveyed high school seniors within 4 public high schools in the region during the spring of the 2018- 2019 school year. Over 300 students participated in the survey which provided an above 10% sampling from the entire region itself.

The survey asked students a variety of questions including demographic information, education expectations upon graduation, the type of industry they’d like to enter, and most importantly, if the students plan on returning to the region after their education or career goals. The survey results themselves show an impressive workforce pipeline that’s available to new industry coming into the area, as well as any industry looking to expand.


Education Expectation

Of the total 341 students surveyed, 171 (50%) stated they have plans to continue on to a University after graduation, the responses for what these students planned on studying ranged anywhere from healthcare to education, business and law. Most interestingly, Russell Independent  School District responded back with 90% of responding students stating they were planning on attending a University after graduation, this district became the outlier by nearly 40% compared to the other districts surveyed. 


Figure 1 shows total student responses from all counties with their plans for post-secondary education, the column on the left shows total number of students, and the column on the right shows percentage.


            Students planning to enter the workforce came in at a total of 16%, when looking at correlating numbers these students also planned on staying in the region while working in construction, manufacturing, or another trade popular within the area.


            Career and Technical Information

Since 50% of students plan on perusing a University education post high school, noting the various career tracts is an important finding as well, 104 students (32%), which is the largest percentage of students surveyed, said they planned on going into the healthcare field. However, it’s also important to note that high school students are generally only aware of 9% of available careers possible (EdSource, 2019). 

Figure 2 Students selected their primary occupation goals - of which healthcare came in with over 32% of students saying they plan to enter this field after their education requirements.


Workforce Pipeline

Likely the most important aspect of this entire survey is the statistics on the likelihood of students returning to the area, especially with the chance of a career available in their choosing – of the students surveyed 39% stated they planned on staying within the region, also noting that their post-secondary education plans would also take place there, 34% stated they planned on leaving the area after high school and 27% were unsure of their plans after graduation.

Figure 3 Asks students if they plan on staying within the area after graduation, the left column shows number of responses while the right column shows the percentage.


The next question students were asked to answer was if they plan to return to the region after they completed their post-secondary goals or even after they’ve gained experience, an astounding 37% of students surveyed said they planned to do so.


Figure 4 Question asked students if they planned to return to the area once they've obtained some education or experience, the left column shows total students and the right column shows percentages.

However, students also had their stipulations when it comes to what would bring them back after they’ve gained their educational goals or experience, many students showed that they would only return based on their family – this also showcases the deep cultural values within the region and the reliance one has on family, and thus the continual workforce pipeline that is filled, 52% of students surveyed said they planned on coming back to the region because of family, while 38% of students stated it would be because of a job opportunity within their field. Of students surveyed on why they wouldn’t return to the area, 37% stated it was because of the lack of job opportunities within their field of choice.

Figure 5 Students identified reasons in which they would return to the region, highest being family with job opportunity trailing close behind.

Figure 6 Shows reasons to which students wouldn't return to the region, highest being the lack of job opportunities in their region.




            Through the survey completed in the 2018-2019 school year, one can definitively say that there is a continual workforce pipeline available to the Northeast Kentucky region, especially if new job opportunities become available within the region. Many students plan to continue their education elsewhere but have also pointed at a trend that they would likely come back to the area at some point.

            The main reason as to why students don’t plan on coming back to the region, this all relates to the available jobs, with this information and data, new industry looking to move to the area can see a large workforce pipeline being continually added to the area based on the sampling size from this survey.


For more information regarding the above information, or if you’d like to know how this workforce pipeline can impact your industry, contact Sam Howard at




Category: News, Workforce

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