"Christmas has come early to EKCEP," said Mable Duke, executive director for the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program as she stood beside Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher last week in Hazard.
Fletcher was on hand to present Duke and other officials with a $400,000 check to provide workforce training in a 23 county area.
EKCEP joins employers looking for workers and workers looking for employment by providing job training through various services. "Employers have been using our system in record numbers," Duke said. According to a release, EKCEP has also served over 5,000 people looking for work in the region by providing training and placement assistance.
John Small, executive director of Excel Mining, said EKCEP has helped with a higher demand as the need for skilled coal miners increases.
"EKCEP stepped in and partnered with us, and the end result is getting skilled miners," he said. "It allowed students to have an increased standard of living."
Grayson Smith, with Infinity Business Group, also noted that EKCEP has provided his company with skilled workers, saying the training provided by EKCEP made the company able to "provide 100 people in eastern and southeastern Kentucky with jobs."
"It was a godsend for our company to start out so far ahead," Smith said.
Eric Wright, a former participant in EKCEP who is now employed as an electrician with International Coal Group, said the training provided "goes a little further than book learning," saying it gave him an opportunity to further his career he may otherwise would not have had.
Governor Fletcher said programs like EKCEP are "crucial" to providing Kentuckians with job training and employers with the workers they need to continue to be successful. "Training and skills are necessary for Kentuckians to achieve a higher standard of living," Fletcher said. "This funding is crucial as we answer the need to provide the best workforce to companies in the Appalachian region of our commonwealth."