(By Matt Pedigo, The Citizen-Times, February 9, 2017, used with permission)
The Allen County Career and Technical Center (ACCTC) is about to get even more technical, courtesy of a sizeable state grant.
The $328,700 grant comes courtesy of the state’s Work Ready Skills Initiative. (WRSI). The first-year, $100 million fund (starting in 2016) was created via partnerships between the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, the office of Governor Matt Bevin (R), the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and Workforce Innovation Board to help seed local projects aimed at better preparing Kentucky’s workforce.
The grant, complied and coordinated by ACCTC Director Joseph Cosby with help from ACCTC teachers, was among the top WSRI applications. In all, for its first funding cycle, WSRI received 117 applications from across the state, asking for a total of $565 million. As state law does not allow an entire fund to be spent in the front half of a fiscal year, just $65.5 million was awarded.
In making determinations, application reviewers narrowed the list down to about 25 top applications to approve, in part or in their entirety. ACCTC made the cut.
Cosby said the ACCTC grant had asked for $750,000, and other matches are being pursued. Still, getting what ACCTC did was very welcome news, he said, and he praises ACCTC’s teachers for their work in the process. Each step of this grant application, he noted, required partnerships between the school’s programs and local businesses, industries and organizations that need trainees in the affected fields. ACCTC teachers worked hard to successfully gain those partnerships, Cosby said.
“We want to put the ‘technical’ in Technical Center, to be sure,” Cosby said. “We want to be a model school, where schools from across the state can come and see what we have. We want the community to tour our school and see what we’ve got.”
The grant funding is likely to arrive by summer, in time to prepare for the 2017-2018 school year. Cosby noted some specific plans for the school’s many career programs.
•Industrial maintenance will get actual manufacturing robots to train on and learn robotics, a growing field affecting many industries.
•Automotive Technology will receive “half cars.” Literally, this is a functioning front half of a car, with an engine, transmission, fully-equipped dashboard, wipers, heater, etc.—and a computer, all for students to practice on. They’ll learn to troubleshoot—instructor Todd Stamps will be able to introduce “bugs” in the system, for students to find and diagnose.
•Instructor Misty Rather’s highly successful marketing/broadcasting program will get a news anchor desk, and professional-quality cameras to work with. Once the program is fully operational, students may even be able to live-broadcast athletic games.
•New “eBook” devices with split screen will allow a teacher’s materials or worksheets to be displayed on one screen, and the student to work on the other. Rather than staring at a chalkboard, students anywhere in the room can pull up what the teacher is doing, and vice-versa. This could be helpful in Dolorse Rice’s Computer Aided Drafting—as will a new three-dimensional scanner, to go wit the 3-D printer the program already has. Together, the system can scan an item and produce a physical model of it.
•The welding program will get two more welders, equipped with digital readers that read a weld’s depth and consistency. This allows students to learn as they try to replicate instructor Matt Keith’s welds. The readouts can be compared for feedback on where students need to improve.
•The Agriculture Department will also get a plasma cutter for metal-working projects, though it will be smaller than the machine in Paul Spears’ Industrial Maintenance shop.
“That way, the kids who can’t get into welding or industrial maintenance can still get experience on the plasma cutter,” Cosby said.
•Health Sciences classes will get about 15 to 20 more mannequin “patients” to work on. The program already has inked agreements with The Medical Center at Scottsville to help develop certified nursing assistants.
•Computer carts, featuring compact computers students can access quickly for writing assignments and internet research. ACCTC offers Cindy Scott’s Information Technology class, and, Cosby said, hopes to build on that by also bringing Rick Roberts’ computer classes from AC-S into ACCTC in the next school year.
ACCTC also intends to introduce e-commerce classes next year. With the prevalence of online sales, this course will help teach students how to set up and run an online business, Cosby said.
The current programs, plus coming improvements have a lot to offer, and students seem to know it as well, Cosby said. He pointed to one measure of ACCTC’s programs, even now, before the coming improvements: Student disciplinary problems—or rather, lack thereof. For the entire current school year to this point, Cosby said he’s had just five office referrals, in a school that serves well over half of the Allen County-Scottsville High School student body.
“We keep the kids engaged and motivated,” he said.
There will also be other opportunities to build on, Cosby adds. In the same WSRI grant cycle, Barren County got about $6 million for a regional training center. That required partnerships with student programs in surrounding counties. The Barren facility will take time to build, likely not becoming operational until at least 2019. When it is, ACCTC students can learn there what may not be offered here.
“I’ve told our teachers, ‘You’re getting the resources; it’s up to you to teach the kids,” Cosby said.