History of Employment Solutions
In March 1967, the Blue Grass Association for Mental Retardation, Inc., (BGA) received a Public Health Service grant to begin an adult center for people with intellectual disabilities. John Swan was the Executive Director of the BGA at the time.
By 1972, the BGA was serving 45 persons and structured its staffing pattern on a rehabilitation model
In 1973, the program adopted the name, Metro Industrial Services (MIS). Sub-contracts provided a major source of income and provided clients vocational training and remunerative work. MIS was rapidly outgrowing its Georgetown Street facility.
In 1976, through the leadership of Carleton Scully, the next Executive Director of BGA, MIS received a 15- year loan from the Small Business Administration for construction of a new facility. An appropriate site was chosen on Brentwood Court in the Melbourne Industrial Park and construction begun.
In 1982, after a period of considerable internal conflict among the staff, the Board of Directors and parents, Mr. Charles Fulner became the next Executive Director of BGA and Karen Busch, a long-time employee, was appointed as the director of MIS. In November of 1982, the BGA board voted to spin off MIS as a separate corporation with its own Board of Directors. This new entity was incorporated in July 1983 as Metro Industries, Inc.
From its inception, Metro Industries experienced many transformations. Metro’s initial 1983 budget of $402,000 grew by 1988 to a budget in excess of $3.1 million. During this period Karen Busch, was retained by the new Board of Directors as its first Executive Director. In the fall of 1987, Metro’s headquarters moved from the space it leased from Brentwood Court into a 22,000 square foot facility on 1084 Whipple Court. Also in 1987, Q-Box, a corrugated box manufacturing operation, was initiated. Both Q-Box and Fresh Approach were initially housed in separate, leased facilities: Q-Box in the Melbourne Plaza and Fresh Approach on 2nd Street.
Unfortunately, like many businesses Metro’s growth did not take place in a controlled manner. Large, ongoing operational deficits, which did not appear in monthly financial reports, lead to the accumulation of enormous liabilities and the near demise of the organization.
In 1989, Rick Christman, Executive Director of Metro’s old parent corporation, BGA, left BGA to assume the role of Metro’s Executive Director. Through a reorganization plan, the size of the staff was significantly reduced, debt payment terms were renegotiated, $50,000 in emergency funds were borrowed from BGA and Citizens Fidelity Bank, $100,000 in additional grant funds was awarded by the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health Mental Retardation Board, and over $20,000 of corporate and other private donations were received.
In June of 1990, Q-Box and Fresh Approach were relocated to Whipple Court to further reduce operating costs. In March of 1992, an agreement was made with Metro’s largest creditor to reduce its debt obligation from $401,000 to $120,000 payable in $1,000 monthly payments over ten years. For several years fund raising efforts included Sunday night Bingo at a facility on Clays Mill Road using staff and other volunteers. Thanks to these and many other efforts the organization attained financial stability. The annual budget by this time had fallen to $1.4 million.
In 1992, through the efforts of Metro Board member Rep. Louie Mack, Metro Industries obtained significant new state funds to develop supported employment services. With the expansion of supported employment services, which advocates community-based employment for all persons with disabilities, job placement took on much greater importance.
This growing emphasis on job placement and Metro’s expansion of its client base from a primary emphasis on persons with developmental disabilities to a more inclusive client base of all forms of disability, lead to the 1993 establishment of Bluegrass Career Services (BCS). BCS was located in the Bluegrass Commerce Center Building in downtown Lexington and served as a base for Metro’s community-based employment services including supported employment placement, competitive employment placement and vocational assessment. By 1996 nearly 100 individuals were working in supported employment and receiving regular contact from Metro staff. An additional 25-50 people were job-placed annually in competitive employment.
As many of these individuals left Whipple Court, they were replaced by other, much more severely disabled persons, many of whom were sponsored by the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services’ AIS/MR program. As of 1997 over 80 persons with disabilities continued to receive work-based services at Whipple Court on a daily basis. From 1991 onward, sales of both of the primary production divisions, Q-Box and Fresh Approach grew rapidly.
In 1994, Metro acquired the former Metro Meats building at 1067 Whipple Court that now houses the Fresh Approach operation. By 1997, with the expansion of both production sales and governmental income, Metro’s overall annual budget grew to nearly $5 million.
With the continued growth of community job placement and an expanded mission to serve persons with all forms of disability, Metro again determined to widen its mission to serve persons with all forms of significant employment barriers, including welfare dependency and homelessness. This decision, which was initially approved by the Board of Directors in 1995, led to a considerable planning effort to launch an occupational skills training program for welfare dependent or otherwise chronically unemployed adults. By 1997 significant funds had been secured to launch this much-anticipated project which is based on a San Jose-based training model known as the Center for Employment Training. Extensive and critical support in this endeavor was provided by Don Ball and Ball Homes. Other major contributors were Bank One, Kentucky Utilities, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government and the Knight Foundation. This new job training program, known as the Center for Training and Employment (CTE), opened late February, 1997 at 2350 Woodhill Drive. BCS was also relocated to Woodhill during this time. Three skill areas were initially offered: Automated Office Systems, Manufacturing Technology and Building Maintenance.
In September of 1997, Metro Industries changed its corporate name to Employment Solutions.
Employment Solutions Personnel (ESP), a temporary staffing operation, opened in the Woodhill Plaza on March 10th. The purpose of ESP is to introduce people with limited work histories, or who are otherwise hard to job-place, into the workforce by utilizing the basic methodologies of the rapidly growing temporary staffing industry. In this manner, ESP allows businesses to try-out individuals on a short-term basis while they remain employees of ESP.
The Gainesway Shopping Center, 1165 Centre Parkway, was purchased by Employment Solutions on October 25, 2000. The Divisions of Bluegrass Career Services, Center for Training and Employment and Employment Solutions Personnel relocated from Woodhill to the Gainesway Center in February of 2001. Following the relocation to the Gainesway Shopping Center, a 38,000 square foot lease by Cabinet for Families and Children was obtained. This led to a significant renovation of the property that was financed with a $3.1 Industrial Revenue bond that was issued by the LFUCG. The CFC began occupancy in December 2001.
In April 2002 the Sauté Café was opened at Gainesway that also included the addition of a Culinary Arts training program. This addition was made possible by an “Earmark” grant from the US Department of Labor that was secured through the efforts of Congressman Ernie Fletcher.
In 2004 Employment Solutions received its candidacy status from the Council on Occupational Education and on July 1, 2005 Employment Solutions was approved by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in Title IV student financial aid programs.
In December 31, 2005 the newly constructed Discount Dollar Store was opened for business in Solutions Centre. This operation also included a training program in Retail Sales Management.
In 2006, the Center for Training and Employment received a six-year full accreditation status from the Council on Occupational Education. Later that same year, the Center for Training and Employment changed its name to the College for Technical Education.
In 2009 Sunnyside and Secure Shredding Solutions were opened at 2428 Palumbo Drive. Sunnyside operates as an adult training program specially catering to people with minimal behavioral issues who desire a serene atmosphere with an emphasis on self-help activates.
Secure Shedding Solutions is a document destruction operation that employs people with disabilities and is operated through the QBox division. The equipment for SSS was secured through a special lease arrangement with NISH/AbilityOne.
In 2010 The County Couzins Day Care Center was purchased. Country Couzins (later changed to Campus Kids) is utilized as a lab setting for the Early Childhood Development program operated by CTE.
In 2010 construction began for the Medical Assistant program classroom that is to be co-located in the former Discount Market space. Funding assistance for the Medical Assistant program was provided by the Chase Foundation and Office for Vocational Rehabilitation.
In March 2011, Employment Solutions purchased the Lexington Beauty College which was moved to Centre Parkway. The new Cosmetology and Nails Technology Programs replaced the Retail Management program.
In the fall of 2011 the former LFUCG Empowerment Center was renovated to house the Medical Assistant program. After additional renovations the Cosmetology and Nails Technician programs occupied the entire 1163 Centre Parkway building. The Early Childhood Education program began in November 2011.
Due to disappointing sales the Secure Shredding Solutions operation was discontinued in October 2012. The 90 Southport building was purchased in June 2012 and after renovations, the Sunnyside operation was moved to 90 Southport. The building was also designed to house Life Works which began operations in May 2013. The initial services of Life Works were behavioral and other therapeutic supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
On March 6, 2012 Employment Solutions purchased the equipment of Motif Beauty School on Wainscott Street in Winchester Kentucky and began the operation of a cosmetology program as a campus extension of CTE. On October 2012 land was purchased on 2135 Bypass Road for the purpose of building a school to replace the Wainscott location. The new building with a capacity for 40 plus students opened August 5, 2013.
Throughout 2012 and 2013 the Medicaid-funded services at Whipple Court and Southport continued to grow rapidly. Under the Expressive and Wellness Division the services to persons served through the Medicaid SCL and Michele P. Waiver programs included horticulture, culinary arts, ceramics, music, various other fine arts, fitness and an extensive variety of community and cultural experiences.
As of fiscal year 2014-2015 over 500 persons with barriers to employment are served by Employment Solutions on a routine basis. The 14-15 annual budget of Employment Solutions is slightly over $10 million.
The Marathon Minit Mart was sold to Nabil Shalash in 2014. Part of the sales agreement was the renovation and enlargement of the building by Shalash to give the property an updated appearance. The name was changed to Valero.
In 2016 the Cabinet of Health and Family Service combined its two main offices to another location on Park Place, leaving 38,000 square feet of vacant space at Centre Parkway.
During FY 15-16 residential services in the form of family home providers (FHP’s) were added to the Life Works division on 90 Southport. Also, our Community Works Division that provided one on one community experiences for Waiver participant of all ages grew considerably. In recognition of these non-employment related services the mission statement was changed to “Employment Solutions is an organization the promotes personal and economic independence”. By FY 16-17, following the trend of other community and career colleges, enrollments at the CTE Lexington’s enrollments had declined to 70. The culinary arts program was ended. In June 2016 3600 Appian Way was purchased as the new location for Sunnyside to accommodate demand.
With the continued growth of Life Works Residential it was relocated to leased offices on Corporate Drive in 2018. The Community Works Division was relocated from Whipple Court to 90 Southport. In 2018 Employment Solutions Transportation was launched and is operated from Centre Parkway. ES transportation provides non-emergency transportation for Medicaid recipients, primarily to and from adult day training programs throughout Fayette and adjoining counties.
In September 2019, Life Works Residential opened an operation in Somerset that includes an adult day training program. Campus Kids also expanded into the former large conference room.
In 2020 the Appian Way Property and the Centre Parkway Medical Arts buildings were sold in preparation for the renovation of Centre Parkway including the 38,000 square feet of vacant space. The front of the large building was replaced and the entire circumference of the small building was remodeled. Sunnyside was relocated to Centre Parkway and CTE also added classrooms in the large building. A portion of the Campus Kids space was also upgraded. Expressive Programs also moved to Centre Parkway to take advantage of the neighborhood amenities. A significant portion of the property was also leased to Nabil Shalash for the purpose of creating a grocery store and deli.
With 2020 being the year of the Covid pandemic adult day training and transportation services were significantly curtailed, along to a lesser extent all other divisions, with the exception of Residential. During this period over $2 million of various forms of Covid related federal aid was received. Also, thanks to the extension of the Department of Agriculture’s Summer Nutrition program, Fresh Approach was able to distribute over 1,700,000 meals over 16-month period that generated over $1 million in gross earnings. As a consequence of Covid CTE moved into distance learning. Programs in Business Office and Nail Tech were also added.
In 2021 Life Works Residential was moved back to 90 Southport which also contained Life Works Therapies and Community Works. In 2022 Life Path, began operations. Life Path’s mission is to provide quality medication management and various therapies for those who receive Medicaid benefits. By the FY 21-22 the budget had grown to $18 million.