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Aaron Poynter addressing the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

“Oftentimes an individual’s success is a group effort.”

From arrests to assists: Aaron Poynter is on a mission to help those who’ve been on the wrong side of the law. “I have a unique perspective. There’s a difference between 'bad guys' —career criminals/dangers to society, and people who need help navigating barriers to breaking the cycle,” said Poynter. “Equipping individuals with the tools and pathways to reach success has a major impact from the community to the economy. I don’t believe in withholding opportunity from anyone."

Poynter, Director of Reentry Programming with the South Central and Cumberlands Workforce Development boards, has been the tip of the spear in the fight to increase workforce participation and community engagement throughout his 23-county footprint in Southern Kentucky.

Upon inception of this program, it quickly became apparent that this underserved population was lacking accessible resources and often faced an unwarranted public perception when attempting to reenter the workforce. 

Prior to his tenure with the workforce development boards, Poynter served as a full-time police officer in Warren County, Kentucky. Following the relocation of his family to Russell Springs, he transitioned into Workforce Development. His experiences and encounters as a law enforcement officer equipped him with an understanding of the individuals who aren't "bad guys." This aided Poynter in championing the idea of recognizing individuals who had gotten "off-track" and separating them from the bias and stigma often associated with formerly incarcerated people when re-entering the workforce.

“Our approach was something that had never really been done before. The idea of partnering with the local county attorney was a concept piloted by Cumberlands Workforce Area Director Myra Wilson and Russell County Attorney Kevin Shearer," said Poynter. "It proved to be very effective”

Originally responsible for only the 13 counties in the Cumberlands Workforce Development Area, Aaron’s foresight for building relationships and exploring new partnerships led to satisfactory workforce placements that benefited individuals, employers, community leaders, and government officials. “We are blessed to have a ton of assistance resources across the region, especially the local resources available to individuals that may need a hand up,” Poynter said. This “whole-community” mindset enabled unprecedented partnerships that have paved the way to self-generating program sustainability and led to the program's expansion in 23 counties.  

Despite the impact of the pandemic, the programming has continued to adapt to ever-changing workforce needs and has facilitated rapid success. Initially partnering with local county attorney offices, the programming quickly expanded to the specialty courts, various divisions of the Department of Corrections, recovery programs, and a myriad of other community offerings.

“By the nature of the situations we are assisting with, we have been forced to be innovative. If an individual is wondering where their next meal is going to come from, where they’re going to sleep, or where to get started looking for help – then they’re not going to worry about a job much less a career,” Poynter said.

“What we’ve done is taken a microscope to each area, identifying untapped labor pools, analyzing the needs of the individuals and the area, creating a local network for barrier removal," he said. "At the same time, we are utilizing our partnerships with employers, analyzing their needs, and bringing the two together."

In partnership with local governments in Russell County, the Cumberlands Workforce Development Board launched (Kentucky Area Resources), a web-based application where individuals can view local resources, connect to those resources or request assistance in starting their journey to success. Community organizations provide contact, location information, and services to be listed on the KARES database.

“KARES has been tremendously effective in serving our communities. We've had a lot of individuals come through and we've been able to assist them in getting into, or back into the workforce. Our successes in Russell County have enabled us to include three additional counties and I have six more that we plan to bring on board. KARES is generating a lot of conversation and momentum for broadening our programming reach," he said.

Poynter was also instrumental in launching a Welding Certificate Cohort for inmates at the Pulaski County Detention Center. Two classes of participants who are currently incarcerated have graduated from Somerset Community College as certified Welders Helpers, gaining a credential, a skill, and the opportunity to enter a work-release program with a local employer. A third Cohort is planned for Spring 2022.

“Developing programming that allows incarcerated individuals to gain a skill, and provide an opportunity for them to go to work, earn a wage all while continuing to pay their debt to society is tremendous," Poynter said. "The goal is to equip the individual with tools to be successful and give them a head start on restarting their life.”

Local and statewide organizations are starting to take notice of what benefits the Cumberlands Workforce Area Re-Entry program has to offer individuals, employers, and the community at large.

On Tuesday, February 15, 2022, Poynter had the honor of speaking at the 7th Annual Workforce Summit presented by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Highlighting Workforce Expansion and Untapped Talent. This presentation was followed by a meeting with key leaders in Somerset regarding the expansion of KARES and subsequent approval of KARES launching in an additional county. All of the efforts are combined through the “Putting Kentuckians First” initiative in which Poynter’s division was selected by the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board as the pilot program.

“I’m blessed to be a part of all the wonderful things that are happening right now, but I must say it is a team effort. Without the support of our partners and everyone involved our programming and initiatives wouldn’t be as successful as they have been. Our goal is to help as many individuals and families as we can by breaking barriers and creating a community-based solution to uplift one another. Since I work for the Cumberlands Workforce Development Board, my goal is to strengthen the individual, the community, and our workforce," Poynter said. "After all, success is often-times a group effort.” 

Chamber Photo aaron poynterSPEDA President & CEO Chris Girdler with Aaron Poynter, and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck recently discussed the new KARES program at a leadership meeting in Somerset.

Officials of the Cumberlands Workforce Development Board and the Lake Cumberland Area Development District recently attended the Monticello-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Banquet & Award dinner as part of their ongoing community outreach efforts.
Pictured (left) are Cumberlands Workforce Development Area Director Myra Wilson, CWD Board Chairman Sam Brown, Communications Director for Representative Hal Rogers Danielle Smoot, and Waylon Wright, Executive Director for the LCADD. In the other photo are Monticello Mayor Tracie Sexton and Myra Wilson.

JJ Bryant, a former teacher, shares her story of taking a chance and changing careers. As a recent graduate of the Commonwealth Coders training course, she is now a web developer!

Code on computer screen

Is your organization looking for a Junior Front End Web Developer in Kentucky or remotely? Commonwealth Coders graduates of December 2021 are eagerly seeking employment and internships. They are equipped with the technical skills of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and React. The students participated in an intense 16-week training program and they have demonstrated commitment, as well as have tremendous potential to succeed in this industry. We would love to partner with you for job placement of our skilled junior web developers.

Contact Information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Campbellsville Kentucky Career Center exterior

‘We don’t just get people jobs. We get them careers.’

The welcoming doors of Kentucky Career Center is open to all who want access to their programs and trainings. The KCC office in Taylor County is located at 1311 East Broadway, in the Elmhurst Plaza.

Job hunting can be difficult, from navigating applications to gaining new skills, but luckily, the Kentucky Career Center (KCC) can assist with all aspects of employment.

The KCC reopened its doors once again last month after closing in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Career Manager Jenny Hughes said their main goal for their office is to get back to the public and let the community have access to all the programs and services they offer.

Job services are their priority in all areas. Members of the community can access the office to use their computers to fill out online or paper applications. Hughes said they are focused on filling job openings and steering the workforce in the right direction.

“And these are full-time positions. We are not a temporary agency,” Hughes said. “We don’t just get people jobs. We get them careers.”

Outside of job hunting and applications, KCC offers programs, trainings and grants to aid the transition into a new career. Hughes said all of their services are free and the resources offer an ability to gain to a self-sufficient wage.

A few of the programs and grants that KCC offers are:

  • The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is a federal grant to assist with training for high-demand careers such as transportation and nursing. The trainings can be as short as six weeks or up to two years depending on the position.
  • The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) provides opportunities to individuals with disabilities to assist with reentry or entry into employment. It gives training and tools to become more independent in the workplace.
  • SHIP or State Health Insurance Assistance Program helps Medicare beneficiaries across the 10-county area.  The assistance extends to Medicare enrollment open from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
  • Kentucky Farmworker Program (KFP) is an employment and training program. The program serves farmers, farmhands, and their families who are seeking to improve their work skills or want “greater financial stability that comes with training and education,” according to Katie Fergerson of KY Farmers Programs, Inc. 
  • Skills U is designed to aid with GED, college, and career preparation. The program also helps with testing for education and businesses as well as English as a Second Language (ESL).

Hughes urges community members to look into the resources KCC offers now that it is back open to the community. Before closing in 2020, the center would get 300 to 700 guests in their offices each month. However, last month’s number of patrons totaled 78.

“People are getting ready to get back to work,” Hughes said. “We are trying to bounce back and to go all out with our resources.”

Despite all the employment programs, the Campbellsville KCC does not have unemployment insurance staff. Members of the community may use a KCC computer to file but do not have staff to assist in the process. 

KCC can be involved in all parts of the career search. Hughes said the center’s goal is to find all the needs of the workforce and aid applicants through their career process. 

“They need something to help them get going and to further their careers. And we are here to help,” Hughes said. “It’s all about finding them a career they love.”

For more information, visit or in person at 1311 East Broadway, Campbellsville in Elmhurst Plaza

Aaron Poynter

The Cumberlands Workforce Development Board (CWDB) is pleased to announce that Aaron Poynter has been named a 40-Under-40 award recipient by the Young Professionals of Lake Cumberland (YPLC). The recognition profiles young professionals throughout the Lake Cumberland region who have made significant impacts in their profession and communities.

Aaron is the Director of Reentry Programming for the South Central and Cumberlands Workforce Development Boards. Working for the workforce development boards, he has been instrumental in the development of programming targeted at reducing and eliminating barriers to employment for individuals across the 23-county region. Often these obstacles include housing, training, access to food, and other basic needs, which have to be met simultaneously while achieving successful employment.

"The Workforce Board is extremely proud of all of Aaron’s contributions, his commitment, and passion for the work in Re-entry," said Myra Wilson, Director of Workforce Development, Cumberlands Workforce Development Area. "He is a pleasure to work with daily. He aspires others to achieve their dreams and goals by setting this example in his life. We are looking forward to launching other pilot programs that Aaron has partnered to develop for our 13 counties."

Aaron Poynter with awardAt the awards ceremony, held Saturday, October 23, 2021, at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Ky, two specific examples of Poynter's professional community involvement were highlighted as part of his recognition.

First, the awards panel pointed out Aaron's research, planning, and development of a web-based application – Kentucky Area Resources or which assists in connecting locally based resources to individuals in need. The services are segmented by county and offer information on career training, health care, schools, government assistance, transportation, housing, child care, food needs, clothing, substance abuse, faith-based agencies, and more. This application was initially launched in Russell County and Hart County Kentucky with a goal to have the entire region connected within a year.

Second, it was noted how the CWDB's Re-Entry & Transformational Employment divisions through partnerships with Somerset Community College, Goodwill, and the Pulaski County Detention Center were able to send eight Pulaski County inmates through a Welders Certificate Program, provide resume/application assistance, host a mock interview, and provide clothing for interviews with two local employers. All eight inmates graduated from SCC's Workforce Re-entry program receiving welder's helper certificates.

Not only is Poynter an accomplished program leader, he also volunteers his time to serve others both professionally and within his community. Poynter gives his time to his community as a member of the United Way of South Central Kentucky Board of Directors, the Southern Kentucky Reentry Council Board of Directors, the Russell County Ethics Board, an assistant football/strength coach for Russell County High School, a Youth League volunteer coach, the Adult Sunday School Teacher and Outreach Director of Union Baptist Church, and many other community activities.

Aaron is a proud alumnus of Western Kentucky University (2015), The Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training (2014), and the Leadership Kentucky BRIGHT (2019) and Elevate (2021) programs.

His commitment to improving the community around him both professionally and personally makes him an outstanding member of the Lake Cumberland region, and the CWDB is proud to congratulate him on his 40-Under-40 award.

"We have so many talented young professionals in the region committed to community development, bettering the region or accomplishing great feats in their industry, and oftentimes, some of those individuals may not receive well-deserved recognition. That's what we want to do," stated Kelli Chaney Latham, 2021 YPLC Board President.

Annual 40-Under-40 events have become commonplace in larger metropolitan areas; however, the Lake Cumberland region has never formally recognized a group of young local standouts in one organized event. YPLC Board Members organized their first event to encourage young professionals to continue working to improve their region and industry.


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