Thanks to a new $2.2 million grant from the federal Economic Development Agency (EDA), more Kentuckians will receive training for in-demand telecommunications jobs related to the new statewide project, KentuckyWired, which will install more than 3,400 miles of fiber optic cable throughout the state.
The funds will support construction of a $4.5 million training facility to house the Broadband Technology Center on the Pikeville campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC). Working in partnership with the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), the BSCTC Broadband Technology Center will house the Kentucky Regional Telecommunications Installation and Maintenance Training Program, and will serve as a hub of broadband education and training in the southeastern region of the United States.
“New jobs are coming to eastern Kentucky – high-tech, good-paying, long-term jobs are already being secured in our region by the I-Way, our new technology highway now under construction,” said Congressman Hal Rogers, co-chair of SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region). “This new training facility is a critical step for preparing our students and workforce for the newfound opportunities that lie ahead. The only limits for the I-Way are our ingenuity and preparation.”
Earlier this year, Senator Mitch McConnell contacted EDA in support of the competitive grant application, highlighting that the educational and workforce training facility would offer certifications and degrees in telecommunications installation and maintenance for industry technicians.
“I was happy to assist with the Pikeville community’s efforts to secure federal funding for this new facility that will provide workforce training opportunities for individuals in eastern Kentucky and serve counties in the federally-designated Promise Zone,” said Senator McConnell. “Workers receiving training at this new telecommunications facility will help diversify and strengthen the region’s economy.”
BSCTC is designing multiple platforms of classes and training to support KentuckyWired, which will help deliver high-speed Internet to every county in Kentucky over the next three years. The project, championed by SOAR leaders, will begin in Eastern Kentucky.
“Developing smart, adaptive and in-demand college curriculum and facilities to support the new broadband frontier is proof that KentuckyWired is already having a positive effect in our state,” said Governor Steve Beshear. “We will need educated and trained workers right away to make KentuckyWired a success, and the Broadband Technology Center at BSCTC is a key component of that effort.”
The college was the first in eastern Kentucky to develop a fiber-optics training program sanctioned by the Fiber Optics Association (FOA). BSCTC is working with the University of Pikeville to establish a seamless transfer to a baccalaureate degree.
“No project will be more transformative for Eastern Kentucky than KentuckyWired, which will bring much-needed high-speed Internet service to every corner of our region,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “Reliable, robust Internet will bring the world to our mountains and allow eastern Kentucky families to work and learn in their hometowns.”
This project is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System’s (KCTCS) partnership with SOAR. KCTCS and SOAR share a mission of improving employability and quality of life for the people of eastern Kentucky. KCTCS does this by offering affordable, accessible education to train the workers needed for local jobs in SOAR communities.
“I want to thank the U.S. Economic Development Agency, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Congressman Hal Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear for their work in turning the dream of a Broadband Technology Center into a reality,” said Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of BSCTC. “With the installation of dark fiber across Eastern Kentucky, our region will stand on the right side of the digital divide. We will not only be connected to world-class upload and download speeds, but new opportunities that will position the region for economic investments that will fully embrace our highly-skilled and highly-educated workforce.”
Once complete, the BSCTC Broadband Technology Center will house the college’s Fast-Track Information Technology program, as well as an early college academy for information technology for high school juniors and seniors, as well as other technology-based workforce solutions programs.