JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC), was a presenter at the Appalachian Region Commission’s (ARC) Aspire Appalachia Conference held on Wednesday, August 31 at the Millennium Centre.
The one-day event focused on collaborations in rural development.
“You cannot do this alone,” Dr. Stephenson told those in attendance. “It takes collaboration, motivation and an approach that focuses on results, not who gets the credit.”
BSCTC, through collaboration with partners such as Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), has received national attention for its work in community, workforce and economic development in some of the ARC’s most distressed counties.
Dr. Stephenson highlighted the formation of the Interapt Coding Academy on the college’s Mayo campus.
“In 1938, this campus opened as one of the first technical schools of its kind in the United States,” he said. “In September, it will usher in a new chapter of workforce development – one that will transform the economic landscape of eastern Kentucky.”
The academy will start with its 50-person intern cohort in September. The interns will be paid throughout the 30-week training and those who pass assessments will be hired by Interapt at the end of the internship.
Dr. Stephenson addressed the “fear factor” of approaching community, workforce and economic development.
“You can either fear everything and run, or face everything and rise,” he said. “The choice is ours. You must be geometric thinkers, planning from all angles and solving problems by degrees.”
Other panelists included: Jill Van Beke, director of entrepreneurship and innovation for Launch Tennessee, and Joseph Carlucci, of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. Tamarah Holmes, associate director of policy and strategic development from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, moderated the session.
“I am very appreciative to the Appalachian Regional Commission and my colleagues from Tennessee for the invitation and hospitality,” said Dr. Stephenson. “We are on the cusp of transformation in the Big Sandy region and we are working with partners from all sectors to help lead the charge.”