Big Sandy Community & Technical College graduates 35 Eastern Kentucky students through inaugural TechHire program
The inaugural class of the TechHire Eastern Kentucky (TEKY) program at Big Sandy Community & Technical College in Paintsville, KY recently graduated from a 17-week coding program.
Thirty-five students from Eastern Kentucky graduated from the program with certificates in coding and will move on to an internship program with Interapt, a Kentucky-based tech company.
The program is a combination of efforts from multiple organizations in order to increase tech jobs throughout Eastern Kentucky including the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), Interapt, the Eleven Fifty Academy in Indianapolis, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR) co-chaired by Governor Matt Bevin and U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05).
Among the 35 graduates is Will Carty, 32, of Salyersville, KY. Carty worked in the coal industry before he was laid off nearly three years ago. He continued to work temp jobs until he found the TechHire program.
“I was bouncing from whatever job I could get – basically job after job,” Carty said. “When this opportunity came, I pounced on it.”
Carty said the TechHire program will allow families in Eastern Kentucky a chance to thrive in their own communities as opposed to moving to larger cities.
“This is me providing for my family in a way that I never imagined I would ever be able to,” Carty said. “Now that this is here, I can stay here and provide for my family where I was born and raised.”
Ben Larrabee, 40, of Louisa, KY, lost his teaching job because of the decline in the coal industry.
“Before entering into this program, I was a math teacher for 13 years,” Larrabee said. “I got laid off because of the decrease in coal jobs and people moving out of my county. I was one of the last ones hired in so I was one of the first ones to go.”
Larrabee has previous experience with computer science so the program was a good fit for him. However, the biggest draw for the program was that it allowed him to stay in Louisa where he lived instead of searching for jobs in other areas.
“For me, it means I get to stay in Louisa,” Larrabee said. “That’s been a big concern for us. We have a farm. We have animals. We have ties to the land. Not having to leave to go find something gave me the opportunity to stay and do what I love.”
Crystal Adkins, 29, of Pikeville, KY, also graduated from the program.
“Having a program like this, there are no amount of words that can describe what it’s going to mean for these communities – to really flourish with technology,” Adkins said.
Matthew McClellan, the TEKY program director, got emotional during the graduation ceremony because of the dedication and hard work the students have put into the program.
“These guys, they are not just mobile app developers,” McClellan said. “They are business solution providers. Beyond that they are productive members of a technology ecosystem that’s going to start here in Eastern Kentucky.”
The concept for the program began when SOAR contacted Ankur Gopal, CEO and Founder of Interapt, for ideas on how to create a technological ecosystem in Eastern Kentucky. Soon after, Interapt committed to partnering with Big Sandy Community & Technical College to develop the TechHire program.
“We believe technology and learning technology can change lives,” Gopal said. “It’s a skill that is needed around the world and it’s something you can do from anywhere so it’s really a game changer.”
Gopal, who was born and raised in Owensboro, KY, said he gets emotional when he hears about how impactful the program has been for families in Eastern Kentucky.
“I’ve had mothers of students come to me and say, ‘Thank you, my son was going to leave and move to West Virginia, or New York or Ohio,’” Gopal said. “I think we have tremendous, smart, and capable people here. In order to survive and have a family, you need to have opportunity. If we did that little part, I am proud of that.”
Earl Gohl, ARC President, worked with Interapt and EKCEP to help fund the program with the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant.
“This is the start of creating a technology workforce for Eastern Kentucky and what we will see is a growth in workers that are trained and not just through this program,” Gohl said. “It will also be with other programs and schools throughout this part of Kentucky.”
To further the likelihood of success for theses technology efforts throughout Eastern Kentucky, including TechHire, The Center for Rural Development (The Center) in Somerset, KY is working to deploy a dark fiber infrastructure in Eastern Kentucky through the KentuckyWired broadband project.
“With programs like TechHire preparing our online workforce, and The Center’s focus on increasing high-speed, high-capacity broadband access for that workforce, we will continue to make significant progress toward closing the Digital Divide in Southern and Eastern Kentucky,” said Larry Combs, Broadband Implementation Manager at The Center.
TechHire will be accepting applications for TEKY 2 during the spring of 2017. For more information on the TechHire program visit www.interapt.com.
To learn more about the KentuckyWired broadband project, visit www.kentuckywired.ky.gov or call The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000.