Vision. Collaboration. Motivation. Each of these words summarize the spirit behind a new way of approaching industry-focused education in Taylor County and surrounding area. For years, Taylor County lacked the physical presence of a vocational training school. However, thanks to visionary education, industry and community leaders, this reality is quickly changing. In August, the community is set to unveil the Central Kentucky Career Academy, a newly remodeled facility that will house expanded programming directly aligned with industry demand in the region.
Once the largest elementary school in the state, the soon-to-be Career Academy is currently undergoing a major renovation of its first floor, which is nearly 20,000 square feet, to accommodate students from across the district, including Taylor County High School and Campbellsville High School, as well as nearby Green County students.
Taylor County’s partnership with Green County is not new. Green County’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC) has welcomed Taylor County students wishing to participate in classes not offered in their home schools for several years. However, despite the close proximity, the approximate 15-minute, one-way commute between communities can cause disruption in student schedules, especially given the fact that they are in two different time zones.
When a new state grant program called the Kentucky Work-Ready Skills Initiative was launched, local leaders jumped into action. In concert with a team of individuals representing various aspects of education, local industry and government, Laura Benningfield, director of Districtwide Programs for the Taylor County School District, played a lead role in organizing, writing and building key support for its grant application to the state.
“We took this opportunity to truly listen to our regional employers and create a plan that included in-demand programming to fill a critical void in the area,” said Benningfield. “Perhaps the most important aspect of this process was the extensive collaboration that has occurred and continues to occur to bring our shared vision to reality.”
The successful grant application, which was approved in round two of the state initiative, is providing $2.375 million in support for the Career Center. The funds will leverage community-generated funding totaling approximately $850,000.
New career pathways will soon be offered, including Healthcare, Computer Science, Industrial Maintenance and hopefully Aviation in the not-so-distant future.
Healthcare Pathways in Student Registered Nurse Anesthetist (SRNA), Phlebotomy and Pharmacy Tech are planned. “With the presence of the Taylor County Regional Hospital, healthcare careers are in high demand,” added Benningfield. “We’ve worked closely with the hospital to shape our educational offerings in this field. We’re also working closely with Campbellsville University to ensure a smooth transition for high school students wishing to pursue this field in college.”
Computer Pathways will include two AP Computer Science classes, as well as Computer Programming. A large multi-purpose industrial maintenance lab will also be completed by the end of the year. The lab will include 12 welding bays and offer industrial maintenance courses to both Taylor County high schools and Green County students. An added benefit of the new lab will be the community’s ability to offer evening welding courses for adults.
Looking to expand course offerings even further, leaders have also identified a critical need for individuals with a CDL license. Organizers are working to fill this shortage by creating a future transportation pathway for students age 18 or older.
Though it may seem like this new facility would negate the partnership between Taylor County and Green County, the reality is that this joint partnership will be further strengthened thanks to the new arrangement.
“The goal of this new facility is not to duplicate programs, but rather complement what each facility offers so that students from all three high schools can have more options and ultimately more career opportunities,” said Dee Doss, College & Career Counselor for Campbellsville High School. “There continues to be a tremendous effort to ensure we are leveraging each other’s resources, including teaching staff, to create a better learning environment for our students.”
For more information about the Central Kentucky Career Academy, call Laura Benningfield with the Taylor County School District at 270-465-5371. Additional information about the Kentucky Work-Ready Skills Initiative, can be found at www.KentuckyWorkReady.com.