Op-Ed: Building on Excellence for a Better Kentucky WKCTC Looks to the Future
Dr. Anton Reece
Just over two years ago, October 1, 2016, to be exact, I began serving as the second president of West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC). My primary emphasis and focus continue to be expanding the regional footprint of the college and advocating for comprehensive access to higher education, economic development, and workforce training throughout the western Kentucky region and surrounding Illinois and Tennessee regions.
The WKCTC's regional vision continues to be enhanced through the ongoing Education Express. WKCTC's Education Express continues to take college leadership on the road to promote the importance of a college-going culture, and expanding education and workforce readiness to our lower socioeconomic, diverse, and non-traditional age populations. We need all hands on deck to realize what we already know - that the west region of the Commonwealth, and surrounding areas in Illinois and Tennessee, have untapped talent and potential to match its unique beauty, resources, and culture of the arts.
WKCTC has embraced Governor Matt Bevin's challenge of Kentucky to become the epi-center for manufacturing and engineering in the United States. WKCTC is uniquely poised to lead in these efforts because we offer not only advanced manufacturing and related sectors but also have 20-year collaboration with the University of Kentucky offering mechanical and chemical engineering in Paducah. The incredible faculty and staff at our college continue to work tirelessly on increasing the Commonwealth's skilled workforce in five sectors - advanced manufacturing, construction, information technology, logistics, and health care. The Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship program focuses on helping Kentuckians to acquire an associate or applied science degrees, industry-recognized certificates or diplomas. In addition, the Work Skills 2017 Grant is also providing funds at the area and county technology centers in Kentucky to enhance equipment to industry standards and will allow us to maximize job readiness and employment.
WKCTC continues to be thankful for the support of our K-12 community partners and stakeholders, including secondary educators and teachers, superintendents, and the many dedicated guidance counselors and inspiring instructors. In Spring Semester 2018, more than 250 educators attended our first annual WKCTC Regional Educators Awards and Scholarship Program celebration and fundraiser to recognize, applaud and support the critical work teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our K-12 partners in Kentucky and Illinois.
So - what's next?
A recent economic impact study (EMSI) showed WKCTC added $141.3 million to the local economy and a return of investment for every dollar spent yielded $6.60 in return to taxpayers. WKCTC recognizes the urgency of increasing a skilled regional workforce, creating opportunities for economic development and recruiting/retaining 20-40 year-olds. Therefore, WKCTC will be co-hosting two major initiatives in Spring 2019, a "best practices" economic development road trip with business leaders, Paducah Economic Development, Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, K-12 educators and government officials to nationally recognized high economic impact areas, including Spartanburg/Greenville, SC; Asheville, NC; and Oak Ridge, Tenn., and an annual regional business and economic development symposium.
Since assuming the Presidency of WKCTC I have been struck repeatedly by the amazing talents of our students, the dedication of our outstanding faculty and staff, the loyalty of our business, industry, and K-12 partners, and the affection of our alumni and college supporters. I am committed to innovation and next level opportunities for the entire region, which result in "Better lives for a Better Kentucky." I will continue to focus on building a team to enhance the work of previous leadership to make West Kentucky even more widely recognized as one of the best community colleges in the nation.