Local schools could obtain substantial training grants
WKCTC’s requested $4.6 million grant would fund equipment upgrades and expanded outreach support for the region’s area technology centers (ATCs) and WKCTC’s Skilled Craft Training Center, benefiting students throughout the area.

Led by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Cabinet, the initiative encouraged private sector employers, high schools, technical schools and colleges to develop partnerships to apply for projects that would aid in workforce training and education.

Paducah schools’ and WKCTC’s projects would both involve multiple public-private partnerships and aim to train and retain local talent to fill the region’s ever-evolving employment needs. The Paducah district is a partner in WKCTC’s proposal and vice versa. WKCTC’s project would expand the offerings of the region’s ATCs to better align with the area’s employment needs in advanced manufacturing, transportation, health sciences, information technology, and business and construction trades.

“The focus of the proposal is to capitalize on economic opportunities generated through the development of Interstate 69 and increase of inland waterway activity, while also addressing workforce needs of current industries due to the aging of the workforce,” said Dr. Steve Freeman, WKCTC dean of workforce and economic development.

PPS’s proposed Innovation Hub would be a fresh take on the traditional ATC, a collaborative space where students and community members alike could develop marketable industry skills, as well as the “soft skills” employers say they value most: problem solving, fluid intelligence, teamwork, innovation and communication skills.

“Creating the Innovation Hub would allow us to hybridize our curriculum offerings to better meet our students’ needs,” said Donald Shively, PPS superintendent. “Our vision is to customize education for each and every child. How do you do that? Well, you need a very flexible space.”

Paducah’s Innovation Hub would be modeled closely after Little Rock’s Hub, a 20,000-square-foot fa- cility with maker spaces, co-working spaces, and art and design studios. Paducah’s space would also feature classrooms.

The Hub and its resources would be available not only to students, but to individuals and entrepreneurs, likely through a membership structure similar to that of the Arkansas facility. Kids still need to master traditional skills like reading, writing and math, Shively added, but that’s not enough.

“We want kids ready for life, not just ready for a test,” he said.

The AR Innovation Hub’s 11-member leadership team has agreed to help Paducah oversee the launch of its own Hub. The University of Kentucky College of Engineering Paducah, Murray State University, Paducah Economic Development, Computer Services Inc., the city of Paducah and several other local entities also partnered in PPS’ proposal for the Work Ready Skills Initiative.

AR Innovation Hub Executive Director Warwick Sabin — former publisher at Oxford American magazine, director of development at the Clinton Foundation and current member of the Arkansas House of Representatives — will speak to Paducah Rotary Club members at their Jan. 4 luncheon, as well as to Paducah Board of Education members that same night.

Even though Shively and the PPS team likely won’t know until January whether their proposal made the cut, they’re continuing to plan for the Hub as if the money’s already in their hands.

“We’re committed to this project because it’s what’s best for students,” Shively said. “It’s what our students need to be successful in today’s economy, and it’s part of the larger vision of building a better Paducah. It’s great for our students, but also great for the community. So we’re committed to finding a way to get this done, to making this a reality.”
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