U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Gov. Steve Beshear have announced the approval of a $160,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant to the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) for the Appalachian Innovations Collaborative. The grant will be used to develop Work Ready plans in conjunction with the SOAR initiative.
The Appalachian Innovations Collaborative will work with 200 participants from 13 counties to develop Work Ready plans. Counties in the service area include Breathitt, Floyd, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Knott, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley, Wolfe, Johnson, Perry and Pike.
“The grassroots efforts of the SOAR initiative are beginning to take root with funding to implement the plans that leaders in the region envision for our future and I applaud the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative for leading the way,” said Congressman Rogers. “This partnership will ensure that we maintain one of the best workforces in the nation, adding confidence to business owners who are looking for a place to grow.”
“We know we have a ready workforce in Kentucky, but the Work Ready plans make our communities even more attractive to businesses looking to invest,” said Gov. Beshear. “This grant will help us target our marketing to businesses and industries by showing that our workforce is prepared to hit the ground running when new jobs locate here.”
The Appalachian Innovations Collaborative is a volunteer-led group that formed in 2012 through a partnership between the P-16 councils serving the Big Sandy and Kentucky River areas.
“This grant will enable the emerging AIC to build the civic capacity in the each of the targeted counties, encouraging the citizens and all community stakeholders to work together and raise educational levels while linking education to job growth,” said Ron Daley, strategic partner lead for KVEC. “Our goal is to engage our K-12 students and other youth in this initiative preparing them for other leadership.”
The Collaborative will work with the 13 K-12 school districts in its service area to significantly increase the percentage of students who graduate from college and are career-ready. The Collaborative will also work with the postsecondary institutions in their counties to develop a comprehensive plan that connects K-12 education, adult education, and higher education to workforce opportunities.
The Collaborative will actively engage business and industry, state and local government, public and private agencies, and the citizens of the region in the planning process.
The process will be coordinated with the SOAR committees, particularly the SOAR Education and Retraining Work Group and the SOAR Futures Forum. The resulting plans will put each county on the path to becoming a Work Ready community.
Funding for the grant will support a full-time director, as well as county and regional meetings. The grant requires a local match of $40,000 through KVEC.
The SOAR initiative was launched by Gov. Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers late last year, after a stunning downturn in the coal market exacerbated historic challenges in Eastern Kentucky related to unemployment and poverty. More than 1,700 Kentuckians attended a one-day SOAR summit in Pikeville in December. SOAR is intended to help the region develop and put into action new locally-oriented strategies to attack those persistent challenges.
Story provided by Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office