Planning grants for the three collaboratives came to the state from the national New Skills for Youth initiative financed by JPMorgan Chase and others. Applications are now being accepted for a second round of planning grants.
Corbin, Barbourville, Williamsburg independents and the Knox County district, along with area technology centers in Knox and Whitley counties, make up the collaborative called the Southeastern Kentucky Regional Career Academy.
Laura K. Arnold, the state education department’s associate commissioner for career
and technical education, met recently in Corbin with school leaders, community members
and business partners involved in the Southeastern Kentucky Regional Career Academy project.
In central Kentucky, the U.S. 127 Regional Career Academy encompasses the Burgin and Danville independent districts, along with the Anderson and Mercer county systems, the Kentucky School for the Deaf, the Hughes-Jones Harrodsburg Area Technology Center and the Lawrenceburg and Danville campuses of Bluegrass Community and Technical College. It will launch with a hub at the ATC.
Delta Academy, the New Skills for Youth collaborative based in Lee County, includes Lee, Owsley and Wolfe county districts. The collaborative also includes the Lee County Area Technology Center and Hazard Community and Technical College.
The academy is not a physical location but a series of career pathways, explained Craig Herald, principal of the Lee County ATC. “We’re starting small,” he said. In fact, the small size of each of the districts in that collaborative necessitates some creativity in adopting an academy model, he added.
By the same token, the banding together of the small districts is an advantage for their students, said Lee County school board Chairman William Owens. “It’s a very big plus for us,” he said. “It’s things that these kids may never be able to get, but by doing these partnerships we’ve been able to bring several new things in to them.” Students are excited about the new offerings, he added.
While the state is contributing the planning grant, districts will have to foot the cost of transporting students among facilities.
Chelsea Adams, New Skills for Youth lead, said the Delta Academy will start with expansion of a health care pathway, building on nurses’ aide and medical administrative assistant coursework currently offered at the Lee County ATC. Planning is underway to add medical coding. A construction academy may be the next pathway tackled.
Herald said the group is working primarily with Hazard Community and Technical College, which already works with Lee County Schools on dual-credit courses, on the higher-level academy offerings. While basic courses could be offered through the ATC, the more advanced classes could be hybrid distance learning through the college.
The U.S. 127 Regional Career Academy will concentrate on the high-demand areas of manufacturing and health care, said Richard Webb, who is co-facilitating the group. Webb is a former Burgin Independent superintendent and currently the executive director of the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Industrial Development Authority.
Unlike the other two groups, the U.S. 127 collaborative is in an industry-rich area. “We have a huge manufacturing base there in those two counties, Boyle and Mercer – 33 percent of the people who work in Mercer County work in manufacturing. The statewide average is 11 percent,” Webb explained.
The Southeastern Kentucky Regional Career Academy’s pathways will encompass many of the sectors the state has identified, Daniels said: advanced manufacturing, transportation/logistics, health care, construction and communications/media arts.
Demographics are helping drive the need, he said. “You’ve got this big group of people – baby boomers – getting ready to retire from these high-demand positions and then they’re going to be in more demand,” he explained.
The collaborative’s goal is to implement at least three pathways the coming school year, Daniels said.
Differences and similarities
While built around the same principles, the three career academies will have differences that reflect the needs of their students and employers, and the strengths of the participating districts and postsecondary institutions. One commonality is the sharing of resources.
Daniels noted if a district in the Southeastern academy had students who were interested in the media arts pathway, those students could come to Corbin; Corbin, on the other hand, has no agriculture program and could send interested pupils to another district for those classes. “You don’t want to look at duplication of services when you can collaborate,” he said.
Another commonality is the ability of students to follow a career pathway as far as they desire – “jump off or jump in,” as Webb put it.
For example, Delta Academy’s medical coder certification also would feed into the medical information technology associate degree program at its community college partner, giving students another career option, Herald said. “We’re not limiting kids,” he said.
Herald said the three districts in the Delta Academy want to be a model for neighboring ATCs, encouraging them to create more advanced offerings in these pathways to meet workforce needs. “Because when you look at this,” he explained, “we’ve got three small districts. We’re not going to turn out 15 medical coders – we don’t have that many students. But if we turn out a few, and the next area center turns out a few, then it becomes a total regional approach.”
Webb said the U.S. 127 academy envisions eventually having several hubs among its partner facilities, devoted to health care and manufacturing pathways. A slow start will be necessary, he said.
“It’s going to be a little bit disjointed the first year simply because it’s never been done this way before, especially with these types of career pathways. The whole end result of this is to make an impact on the workforce – to get them into the workforce sooner and better trained and to get kids thinking about education not just for education’s sake, but education ‘to prepare me to do this,’” he said.