PRESTONSBURG – Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) held a collaborative roundtable on Tuesday with representatives to discuss possibilities of regional transformation through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Economic Development Agency Power Initiative grants.
Representatives from Ashland Community and Technical College, Hazard Community and Technical College, Somerset Community College and Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, joined BSCTC officials, as well as Chuck Sexton, CEO of One East Kentucky; Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR); and representatives from Thomas P. Miller and Associates.
The Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative is a multi-agency effort to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and power sector. Through the initiative, agencies including the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the U.S. Small Business Administration will provide competitive grants to affected communities to help them develop comprehensive economic strategic plans and undertake coordinated economic and workforce development activities based on those plans. These activities will be targeted at diversifying local economies; creating jobs in new or existing industries; attracting new sources of job-creating investments; and providing workforce services and skills training resulting in industry-recognized credentials for high-quality, in-demand jobs.
“We believe our power is collaboration,” said Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of BSCTC. He also serves as the SOAR liaison for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). “All of our regions have been affected by the downturn in the coal economy. This meeting allowed us to identify resources to leverage and brainstorm ideas that will help our colleges transform the Appalachian Region one student, one opportunity at a time.”
Dr. Stephenson said it is important to extend collaboration beyond respective colleges and include organizations like SOAR, Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP) and One East Kentucky, who are working on the frontlines of workforce, community and economic development.
“As a community and technical college system, we are the largest provider of workforce training in the Commonwealth,” he added. “It is important that as we generate ideas, we involve our partners and connect the dots from implementation to job placement. In these challenging times, come great opportunities of promise and hope to diversify our economy.”
Three other presidents from KCTCS schools were in attendance at the meeting. They included Ashland Community and Technical College President Dr. Kay Adkins, Hazard Community and Technical College President Dr. Jennifer Lindon and Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College President Dr. Lynn Moore.