By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
Gov. Steve Beshear has picked a former automobile executive and Transportation Cabinet official to head up the Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development.
Beshear announced Friday that Thomas Zawacki, the current Commissioner of the Department of Vehicle Regulation, will succeed Joe Meyer who earlier this week announced his retirement.
Zawacki worked for more than 30 years in the automobile industry, including stints at Nissan and Ford before joining Toyota where he helped start the Japanese company’s largest plant outside Japan, located in Georgetown.
He was general manager of general affairs for Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing America before he retired from the company in 2009 and took the position with the Transportation Cabinet.
“Tom has a deep understanding of the skills employers need to build successful businesses, and he brings both public and private sector experience to the table to help us meet those needs,” Beshear said in his announcement.
Zawacki said training and education are critical if Kentucky is to enjoy a strong and flexible workforce.
“I’ve devoted much of my career to building strong partnerships among employers, workers, educators and communities,” Zawacki said. “I appreciate the governor’s confidence in my work, and we will continue the good work of his administration.”
The Education and Workforce Development Cabinet coordinates learning programs from pre-school through college and manages workforce development programs in the Department of Workforce Development. The cabinet employs about 3,000 people and has an annual budget of $2.5 billion.
It is separate from the Kentucky Department of Education which is managed by Commissioner of Education Dr. Terry Holliday and is responsible for the state’s public school system and the Council on Postsecondary Education, managed by CPE President Dr. Robert King, which coordinates policy for the state’s public university and community college system.
The cabinet, however, works with both agencies to support education programs for all ages. Since 2012 the cabinet also licenses and regulates proprietary or for-profit schools that offer bachelor degrees in Kentucky and oversees Kentucky Education Television and the Department of Libraries and Archives.
Zawacki is a past chairman of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System – KCTCS – Foundation; KCTCS Board of Regents; Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; and served on the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board from 2009 to 2013.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.