FRANKFORT, Ky. — Simply walking into Shelby County Area Technology Center (SCATC) will dispel any notion that advanced high school learning centers are like the shop classes of generations past. While traditional technical skills are still being taught at SCATC, the modern classrooms and new equipment show just how far technical education has come since the school was built in 1968.
The Shelby County Area Technology Center’s new state-of-the-art equipment can be attributed to a $3,233,049 Work Ready Skills Initiative (WRSI) grant. The Work Ready Skills Initiative was funded by the Kentucky General Assembly and is administered by the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet under the leadership of Secretary Derrick K. Ramsey. Approximately $1.1 million of the WRSI funding has been utilized for equipment such as robots, mills, lathes and welders at SCATC.
“We are excited to partner with local stakeholders in the Shelby County community to offer Work Ready Skills Initiative funding to help modernize the Shelby County Area Technology Center,” said Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Derrick K. Ramsey. “Our investment into this community will help ensure Kentucky students are equipped with employable skills that allow them to thrive in the workplace as well as meet the skill demands of advanced manufacturing, logistics, health care, information technology, and construction career sectors.”
SCATC’s building and renovation was dedicated earlier this year, and the equipment is currently being used to train students. The center nearly doubled in size with an additional 30,000 square feet featuring three new labs, a lobby and a presentation room along with new lighting, paint and furnishings.
“The response from the students has been fantastic,” said Steve Coleman, director of College and Career Education at Shelby County Public Schools (SCPS). “Through the monies that we received through the Work Ready Skills Initiative, we were able to upgrade and bring in a whole lot of new equipment that the students are really excited about. The equipment is not just new and shiny. It’s upgraded to the point that it is more modern and models more of what they will see in an industrial setting.”
Shelby County’s WRSI investment is part of a larger project called the IGNITE Initiative that includes the Jefferson Community and Technical College-Shelby County Campus, Shelby County Industrial Foundation and local industry and government partners to provide a world-class training facility for advanced manufacturing for companies along the I-64 corridor. The remaining balance of the WRSI grant will be used for renovation and equipment for the next phase of the IGNITE Initiative.
“We let our community business and industry leaders in the manufacturing world design the facility and inspect the equipment so when you come into our labs you see exactly the same thing as when you visit our factories, so there’s very little transition for our students when they go into the workplace,” said James Neihof, Ph.D., superintendent for SCPS.
SCATC serves approximately 550 students from Shelby County High School, Collins High School, Eminence Independent Schools and Spencer County High School, and now has the capacity to teach 750 students as well as offer adult night classes. The expansion has allowed SCATC to add diesel technology and welding to the list of original training programs that includes automotive, industrial maintenance, diesel technology, health services, business technology and information technology.
SCATC junior Micayala Heightchew is taking industrial maintenance classes and said she is open to a career in the field. She said she enjoys electric wiring, being creative and programming robots. “I took this class because I thought it would be a cool and unique experience. I just thought it would be fun so I tried it and I liked it. It’s something that I gravitate to and it’s really easy for me to understand.”
Heightchew said receiving the WRSI grant gave students at the ATC an advantage. “I feel it makes us stand out that we have this training and can get certified for different things. Without this new building we would not have the new trainers and our new equipment and have a better education and a better understanding of it.”
John Leeper, deputy superintendent for SCPS, said, “We had a strong commitment to the facility already before the Work Ready Skills Initiative was started, but the grant allowed us to take it to another level. It allowed us to get the equipment that we needed that would attract the attention of young people, that would attract the attention of the community and really open up many doors for not only the potential employees, but also give the employers a chance to send their employees to be trained.”
SCATC is one of 40 WRSI projects in the state that the cabinet is investing $100 million in to help train students and adults for in-demand, high-paying technology jobs. The WRSI projects include construction and renovation of facilities and the purchase of new equipment aimed at providing workforce training and education in Kentucky’s top five growth sectors of advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, business services and information technology, healthcare, and construction trades.
The initiative infuses resources to expand career and technical education facilities and upgrade equipment in schools through local partnerships between businesses and educational institutions. The 40 projects selected are locally driven and tailored to meet the workforce and industry needs of their communities. Each project requires a minimum 10 percent match by local partners.
For more information about the Work Ready Skills Initiative, visit the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet webpage.