The White House has announced the first round of grantees for its Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, an effort involving multiple federal agencies and resources to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry.
An initiative originally proposed by Appalshop, the Southeast Kentucky High Tech Workforce (SKHTW) Project, received $200,000 from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and $75,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for a total of a $275,000 project. The project will:
• Establish a one-year certificate program in information technology & media production that will be offered at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College campuses in Letcher, Harlan abd Bell counties.
• Provide an educational experience in both classroom instruction and hands-on projects for up to 30 residents of Letcher, Harlan and Bell Counties. The SKHTW certificate program will build technology and media skills that employers in the region already have identified as needed for their enterprises within the next two years, but are not finding in the present work force. It will provide an educational framework to build applied skills useful to existing employers, connect graduates with existing businesses looking to hire staff with these skills, actively seek to match graduates with entrepreneurs working to establish new business ventures based in the region, and work with graduates in applying their newly learned skills in starting a new business for themselves.
• The SKHTW certificate program is possible via a collaboration between public, nonprofit, and private for-profit partners which have together identified this opportunity for economic and workforce development in the coalfields. Committed partners include Appalshop, Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, Appalachian Regional Healthcare, and others.
This region is part of a larger area of eastern Kentucky that is the focus of intensified state and federal attention to the region’s outmigration and high unemployment rates owing to the depletion of its coal reserves and its lack of economic diversity. The first year of the certificate program will be available at SKCTC campuses in each of the three counties in the project region.
“Appalshop is thrilled to partner with Southeast Community and Technical College to bring muchneeded investment into the region. This award is further recognition of the role that art, media and technology will play in the economic growth of our region,” said Alexander Gibson, J.D., Appalshop’s executive director.
The proposed project will have an immediate impact in terms of the 16 new employees that private sector partners have committed to hiring.
The creation of these jobs by the Southeast Kentucky High Tech Workforce project will leverage $375,000 of private investment and the creation of an ongoing program which will continue to provide focused, hands on leadership development with applied media and technology training that includes college credit.
It is the assessment of the SKHTW project partners that there is a larger unmet need for a workforce with these technology and media skills in southeast Kentucky and neighboring southwestern Virginia than will be served during the first year of the certificate program.