Hazard Community and Technical College and two other colleges will receive a $3.5 million Appalachian Regional Commission grant to launch a comprehensive, employer-driven workforce development program focused on building the digital economy and strengthening digital innovation and entrepreneurship across a 16-county region in Eastern Kentucky.
HCTC will join forces with Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Prestonsburg and Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Cumberland in the Eastern Kentucky Coal County Transformation project. The project is in partnership with Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) and Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP). All will work together to establish educational programs that develop workforce skills in emerging regional career clusters, such as cybersecurity, medical coding, and advanced manufacturing. The program will specially engage dislocated workers from the coal industry through targeted advertisements, and will provide adult basic education as needed to ensure that these individuals can participate in the training courses.
Dr. Jennifer Lindon, HCTC president/CEO, said she is looking forward to working with the other colleges, as well as EKCEP and SOAR on this very important project. “We have all the same goals and there is no limit to what we can accomplish as we work together. This is a very exciting time for us to change our region and this is the springboard we need at this pivotal time.”
Supporting the development of a technology-driven economy beyond classroom training is vital, and the program will identify and promote a number of digital innovation hubs, providing facilities and resources to encourage entrepreneurial activities.
Success coaches will be available to instill critical 21st century skills and provide support to nascent technology workers, and a Regional Committee will be established to monitor industry trends and best practices.
The project will serve 300 trainees and improve the operations of 30 existing businesses in the first two years of the award, and will lay the groundwork for the development of a vibrant and lasting digital economic in the region.