By: Jansenne Mitchell
Students from Barren County and surrounding areas met in the Barren County High School Auditorium for an Evening with Industry Sept. 19. It was the 11th year for this event, and it was a packed house.
James McCaslin, Vice President of Outreach and Community Development at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKYCTC), introduced the speakers for the night. McCaslin thanked all of those who helped to make the night possible. Then he introduced the first speaker, Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary and former University of Kentucky football player, Derrick Ramsey.
Ramsey had a clear message for the audience: apprenticeship can change Kentucky. He believes Kentucky needs more skilled laborers. Technology has vastly improved over the past forty years, he said, but a consequence of this is that there are no longer people to maintain roads, bridges, power plants, factories, etc.
Ramsey called for more skilled laborers to find jobs in Kentucky. He said we need more plumbers, welders, electricians – people who want to make good money but are not afraid to get their hands dirty.
“The opportunity to make money is up to you,” he said after stating that Kentucky has 200,000 open jobs. He even says that by 2024 that number could be 700,000. He wants students to know that there are jobs available to them.
“I’m here to tell you, there are jobs. The question is are you willing to go after it?” stated Ramsey.
Brad Motell, the Deputy Secretary of the Kentucky Department of Education and Workforce Development, wanted to inform students of educational opportunities they have. But first he described the state jobs in Kentucky were in.
“A high school diploma is no longer enough,” stated Motell. He said that for every 100 jobs, 99 require some form of education beyond high school. Many of these jobs are middle skill level jobs. This means that they require more than a high school diploma but less than a four year degree.
Motell said students that want to find middle level jobs can apply to the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship. He described this as a skills scholarship that is open to anyone with a high school diploma or GED who has not received an associate’s degree or higher. Motell said that this scholarship is available for any age group, even adults. More information can be found at helpwantedky.com.
“Get a skill and work at it day after day,” said Winston Bennett, Director of apprenticeship for the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. Bennett wanted to emphasize the importance of apprenticeship. He believes this is what will put the greatness back in Kentucky.
“It’s not so you can compete with the next person.” said Bennett about apprenticeship. He thinks it’s about taking care of yourself and taking care of your family. The average apprenticeship makes $50,000 dollars a year. He joked that Kentuckians are usually above average and Tennesseans are below. Bennett ends with an inspiring statement.
“Let’s forget about ourselves and think about who we can help.” This is what apprenticeship is all about to Bennett.
Barren County Superintendent Bo Matthews took the podium next. He announced door prizes and then discusses the future for Barren County.
“You are among a community of dreamers and doers,” said Matthews. He wants Barren County to be an example for others. He discussed the new technical school being built which will have biomedical, culinary, diesel, and engineering programs.
Barren County already promoted work ready students with its 34 different pathways. What is next? Matthews said it is computer science. He believes jobs of the future demand will demand it.
McCaslin closed the speaking for the night and then invited students and their families to walk to the Barren County Area Technology Center where dinner was provided. Attendees were invited to meet with the local industries set up in booths around the hallways of the BCATC.