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'Power Forward': Can Education Help Close The Wage Gap?

Power Forward Summit
Power Forward Summit

For a family of four, the living wage in the Louisville area is $45,000 or more. That’s according to the KentuckianaWorksCareer Calculator tool.

KentuckianaWorks, along with Greater Louisville Inc., held the second annual education and workforce summit, Power Forward, at the Muhammad Ali Center on Friday.

One of the focuses of the event was how to get Louisvillians who are left behind closer to that living wage.

A big push by the city to get Louisvillians to the living wage is a college education. The organization 55,000 Degrees, which also sponsored the summit, aims to get half of the city’s adult population to obtain a two-year or four-year degree by 2020.

Michael Gritton is executive director of KentuckianaWorks. He says one way to bridge the gap between and education and workforce preparedness is with high quality internships.

“We have Bellarmine locally starting to offer internships and co-ops to their students but we’re trying to foster more of that across all of the great colleges in our region,” he says. “Because what the data shows is that engineers and nursing students fare pretty well after they co-op, but lots of liberal arts majors aren’t going on to make the kind of money that you’d like them to make.”

According to the KentuckianaWorks career calculator tool, the median salary after graduation for a liberal arts major is just above $29,000.

“We’re trying to make sure that people just don’t go to college but they get the right degrees that will line them to what’s growing in our economy and the jobs that will hopefully provide them to a pathway to the American Dream,” Gritton says.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.