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Low College Attainment Levels Mean Too Many Open Jobs

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When it comes to degree attainment, Kentucky ranks near the bottom. One reason for that is the thousands of working age adults without a college credential. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) offers several short-term certificate programs and associate degrees to help change that.

Many jobs that once were available to high school graduates now require additional training, which means employers can’t fill jobs. Most open jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree. In fact, many companies are seeking employees with certificates or associate degrees.

As the world of work changes, the 16 colleges of KCTCS also are the place for retraining or upskilling. This was true for Jeff Smith. In 2006, he lost a job he’d held for 20 years when the company closed and sent jobs overseas. Smith enrolled in West Kentucky Community and Technical College earning a business degree. He now is the general manager of Two Rivers Fisheries.

Smith said he knew at age 48, he had to go to college if he was going to better himself and his family.

“If it hadn’t been for the college degree, I would’ve never had this job,” he said. “The reason I went back to college was not only for myself but also for my children’s sake.”

Smith said his college success motivated his daughter, who was a high student at the time, to also attend college. This is an important point because many Kentucky high school graduates have no role models who’ve attended college. Although some first-generation students complete programs, many do not. Having someone at home who’s been through the college journey providing guidance and support helps improve the odds of completion.

For first-generation students of any age, the 16 colleges of KCTCS offer not only the education and training needed to begin a career, but also an encouraging and approachable faculty and staff. Because many KCTCS students work, the colleges have implemented flexible programs to fit students’ busy schedules.

For example:

  • Hazard Community and Technical College has a program called Tuesday Night Live that brings families together on campus for a meal and children’s activities while parents attend class.
  • Madisonville Community College offers MCC Accelerate, which allows students to take one class at a time, one night a week.
  • Owensboro Community and Technical College students can take advantage of Tech X. In this program, classes are built on project-based coursework that allow students to move ahead when a skill is mastered. The daytime option allows students to attend classes eight hours a day, three days a week for a seven-month period. The evening option allows students to attend classes four hours per evening, four nights a week for a nine-month period.

The best part is that many KCTCS programs are covered by the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship program, so tuition is free.

Through innovative programs that prepare students like Jeff Smith for careers with local companies, KCTCS offers the solution to Kentucky’s workforce shortage and college credential attainment. For more information, visit KCTCS.edu.

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