Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, coal mining was a way of life for Brandon Pierson’s family.
Brandon, whose father worked in the coal mines for 30 years, was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps as a second-generation coal miner.
Shortly after graduating Harlan County High School in 2010, Brandon went to work at Clover Lick No. 3 mine in Harlan County.
He worked in the coal mines for five years, moving up the ranks to safety representative, until the coal industry fell apart.
A downturn in the economy and ever-changing demands of a global coal market forced the mine he was working in to close. Sixty miners lost their jobs.
Without a job, Brandon didn’t know what to do next. He said his father always wanted him to go to college, but without a source of income, pursuing his education seemed to be a distant dream.
During this challenging time, Brandon faced the illness of his father. “I promised my dad on his death bed I would go to college,” he said. “I kept praying and waiting for the right opportunity.”
The “right opportunity” came along, when he least expected it, in the form of the Displaced Coal Miner Training program administered by The Center for Rural Development.
As a displaced coal miner, Brandon qualified for the program. He was able to get funding assistance and enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College (SKCTC).
“The Displaced Coal Miner Training program came at a critical time in my life,” Pierson said. “I do not know if I would have been able to go to college without the program.”
Brandon, the first person in his family to attend college, graduated on May 5 with an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice and plans to pursue a career as a conservation officer with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We are extremely proud of Brandon’s accomplishments. At Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, we are committed to helping our region’s displaced miners get retrained and get back to work,” said Dr. Vic Adams, Vice President for Workforce Solutions and SKCTC President-Elect. “We are grateful for programs offered thru organizations such as The Center for Rural Development that can provide the resources needed for students like Brandon to make higher education attainable.”
“It all worked out perfectly,” Pierson added. “I’m looking forward to a new career and giving back to a community that has meant so much to me.”
Brandon and his wife, Jessica, are expecting their first child. Thinking about all that he has accomplished, prospects of a new job and career, and starting a family, “I’m really proud of myself.”
For more information on the Displaced Coal Miner Training program, contact Robyn Phillips at 606-677-6000 or visit dcmt.centertech.com.