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KCTCS Getting $10M From Feds For Online Learning Programs

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The Obama administration is awarding KCTCS $10M as part of an initiative to expand online learning for degrees in technical fields.

Vice President Joe Biden and the secretaries of Education and Labor announced the grant winners Monday at the White House. Linking job training to industry demand is key to the administration's strategy to improve wages and reduce unemployment.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded six Kentucky community colleges $10 million to support job-driven training programs.  Hazard Community and Technical College received $5.5 million to lead a consortium of six community and technical colleges focused on training in the information technology industry.

Several of the schools are located in the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) area, where economic development, job training and education are a key focus.  Hundreds of SOAR-area workers may benefit from the new training for high-demand technology jobs.

“The timing of this funding is critical for southern and eastern Kentucky, where we are working diligently to rebound from a devastating loss of jobs in the coalfields and diversify our economy,” said Congressman Rogers, co-chair of the SOAR initiative.  “As we revitalize our region, we are looking for direct partnerships like this, that team up our educational institutions with growing workforce demands. I applaud the U.S. Department of Labor for investing in this project, allowing unemployed individuals earn credentials faster and cheaper for a successful transition into good-paying jobs.”

“Our community colleges are a critical nexus between workers and emerging businesses,” said Governor Steve Beshear, co-chair of the SOAR initiative.  “These colleges have developed a fast-track pipeline to get businesses the trained workers they need in the shortest time possible, which saves students money and helps local businesses advance their work. I’m proud that this grant will continue to support those efforts and help train more Kentuckians for rewarding jobs.”

“The $10 million in investments in Kentucky announced today will help prepare local workers with the skills needed for in-demand careers and advance the role of community colleges as engines of economic growth,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Over the last four years, the U.S. Department of Labor has invested more than $25 million in Kentucky – part of a long-term commitment to ensure that workers have access to training for the specific skills employers need to stay competitive in the global economy.”

Today’s announcement continues the significant federal support for the SOAR initiative, including Promise Zone and USDA Strike Force designations for the region. The region won a $44 million Race to the Top grant for early childhood education in December, and last week, the Centers for Disease Control committed a full-time staffer to the SOAR initiative to assist with public health efforts. 

The Department of Labor announced more than more than $450 million in grants to community colleges around the country in the final round of the four-year, nearly $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative. These investments will help expand the capacity of the American community college system to provide innovative training programs in partnership with local employers. During the four years of this competition more than 250 grants have been awarded funding programs at 1,060 colleges.

About Kentucky’s Winning Program

All students have access to a Learn on Demand online curriculum through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), which allows students to learn and progress at their own pace. That means students advance based on competency, not on class hours fulfilled or semesters completed.

The federal grant will support a new program within Learn on Demand called Enhancing Programs for IT Certification (EPIC).

Six colleges, led by Hazard Community and Technical College, formed the EPIC consortium to expand the scope of Learn on Demand.  EPIC will create four major information technology (IT) pathways in computer and medical information curriculum that will lead to five degrees and 13 certificates, all of which will be developed in concert with regional and national employers.

EPIC will provide more than 720 trade-impacted workers and other adult learners with an flexible, supportive structure to earn credentials in less time and at a lower cost than conventional semester-length, classroom-based programs of study—thereby strengthening their transitions to high-demand IT career fields.

Students who participate in EPIC can train for jobs such as network administration, medical coding, programming, electronic health records management, and IT security.

“Our region has experienced significant economic loss over last several years. We have many unemployed and underemployed workers who are seeking sustainable higher paying jobs that will not only to enable them to provide for their families but allow them to remain in Kentucky,” said Dr. Ella J. Strong, Dean of Distance Learning and Senior Project Advisor for Hazard Community and Technical College. “This grant will enable KCTCS to provide these hard working people with this opportunity.”

Participating KCTCS colleges include Hazard, Big Sandy, Jefferson, Somerset, Southeast, and West Kentucky.

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