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State Grant for Home Builders to Benefit Local Schools

Four projects received funding from the Kentucky Education & Workforce Development Cabinet last week, including one collaborative effort to teach more local students about the construction trade.

The Work Ready Skills Initiative Advisory Committee selected recipients for its second round of funding on Wednesday. Approximately $33.1 million in bond money was dispersed to 15 projects aimed at developing a highly trained workforce to meet the needs of employers and to promote sustainable incomes for workers in the states.

“The response to the Work Ready Skills Initiative has been truly astounding,” said Gov. Matt Bevin, in a statement. “This important initiative is a key component in our pursuit to make Kentucky the epicenter for engineering and manufacturing excellence in America. This historic investment in training our workforce will truly be transformative for the Commonwealth.”

The 10-member committee met Wednesday in Frankfort, to review the results of applicant interviews conducted last week. Proposals came from several state workforce areas and addressed a wide array of key industry sectors including advanced manufacturing, healthcare, technology, transportation and construction trades. Earlier this year the committee awarded more than $65.5 million to 25 projects. The $65.5 million in first-round awards leveraged $84.5 million in matching funds, including approximately $64.1 million in cash and $20.4 million in-kind.

The Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky received $2.69 million, Kenton County Schools received $400,000, the Freestore Foodbank was granted $267,000 for a project in Wilder, and Gateway Community & Technical College received $95,000.

The Home Buildiers will use its windfall to renovate the Enzweiler Building Institute facility in Erlanger and an old Campbell County elementary school. 

“I am extremely pleased Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky was awarded a Work Ready Skills Initiative Grant in order renovate and equip these facilities,” said Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger), who chairs the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. “HBANKY provides numerous apprenticeship opportunities in home-building trades such as carpentry, electric, HVAC, facilities maintenance, remodeling, masonry, plumbing and welding. These well-paying jobs are becoming more abundant in the Commonwealth because of pro-growth legislation passed this year and employers need a highly-trained workforce to fill those positions.”

Funds will also go toward equipment for the renovated facilities as well as the Campbell County Area Technology Center. Over 1,200 students and 660 adults will be trained annually through this project in the areas of trade and construction.

The news was celebrated at last week's meeting of the Ludlow Board of Education.

Ludlow Schools Superintendent Michael Borchers joined representatives from the Home Builders Association, Boone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Randy Poe, and Campbell County Schools Superintendent David Rust in Frankfort to be interviewed by the grant selection committee.

"We asked for $3.1 million, and we found out we got $2.6, almost $2.7 million," said Borchers. 

Borchers explained that the program allows juniors and seniors who are interested in learning how to build homes to apprentice under professionals that are in the industry. In the first year, students are exposed to plumbing, electrical work, and carpentry, and then in the second year, students can choose one of those areas as a focus. When the program started, Boone County had the only high school participating, but Ludlow is now a part of it, too.

"We sort of wedged ourselves in so we would have a leg up on any other district," said Ludlow High School principal Travis Caudill.

Ludlow has three students in the program this year, and next year there will be room for six students from Ludlow. Boone County has roughly 50 students in the program. Caudill told the board that the people in charge of the program are very pleased with the work ethic and respectfulness of the Ludlow students.  

Borchers said that one of the goals of the Ludlow district is to make the high school less traditional and more individualized to meet the needs of students.

"We want to make sure that  all of our seniors have some type of post-secondary experience before they graduate," Borchers stated. "Last year we instituted the Gateway project so that students who wanted to go to college can actually now graduate with 24 credit hours toward their college education, and this year we had students in the home building program so students who like to work with their hands can learn a trade. Gateway is expanding their autobody program, and kids who like to work on cars and take on the challenge of syncing the 220 computers inside a car can learn how to do that."

“Seeing the excitement build across Kentucky about improving our workforce has been an unforgettable experience. Since this process began in 2016, the committee has reviewed the requests of more than 150 applicants, covering the majority of our counties,” said Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner. “This program will bear fruit long after it ends, giving students the means to find jobs in a world exploding with technology.”

-Written by Michael Monks and Patricia A. Scheyer