The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through its POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative has announced an investment of $1,463,927 in Eastern Kentucky University’s “Kentucky's Appalachia Aviation Maintenance Technician Training” project.
The 18-month program, slated to begin training students in January 2020, will be partially taught in traditional classrooms on the partnering college campuses: Hazard Community & Technical College; Big Sandy Community and Technical College; EKU Manchester; EKU Corbin; and EKU Richmond. Upper-level training classes will take place at partnering regional airports: Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport, Hazard; Big Sandy Regional Airport; London-Corbin Airport; and Central Kentucky Regional Airport, Richmond.
EKU Regent Nancy Collins, a Hazard attorney, is excited about the prospect of Eastern’s AMT program bringing new economic development opportunities to Perry County and the rest of the region.
“EKU’s aviation mechanics program will make a huge impact on our region,” Collins said. “This project, along with other economic development efforts, brings us forward and readies us for 21st Century industry.”
Each college and university program location was strategically chosen for its proximity to a partnering regional airport. Once trainees fulfill basic coursework requirements inside the traditional classroom setting, the training will move to the regional airports for hands-on work training.
The initiative meets criteria outlined in EKU’s five-year strategic plan, enacted by EKU President Dr. Michael T. Benson and the EKU Board of Regents. One of the plan’s six goals is to increase collaboration with EKU’s service region and community stakeholders to identify and address both educational and economic issues.
“Through the establishment of these four AMT training programs in eastern Kentucky, the University further demonstrates its commitment to the region and our mission to improve the quality of life for the communities we serve,” Benson said. “The demand for highly skilled aviation mechanics is growing and we are honored that our University has been chosen by the Appalachian Regional Commission to prepare this workforce.”
“This new program will give flight to new opportunities for students across southern and eastern Kentucky in the aviation industry,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), who supported EKU’s application and helped secure grant funding for the ARC. “The Aviation Maintenance Technician program will give individuals hands-on experience and training at airports throughout the region, preparing Kentucky’s workforce for growing opportunities in the field. I applaud EKU for targeting a need in our workforce and leading the way to connect our students from the classroom to aviation mechanics in our airports.”
Eastern is currently working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to build an approved curriculum and will hire a project manager after July. The program is intended to be inclusive of both Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) and Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT) trainings. Identifying a growing employment sector, the project responds to the need for economic diversification, job creation and workforce development within Kentucky's Appalachian counties.
Dr. David McFaddin, EKU’s senior vice president of operations and strategic initiatives, put the team together that built the integral partnerships with Kentucky’s community colleges and regional airports, working in both the private and public sectors. Working toward the goal of creating four FAA certified AMT schools, EKU’s Regional Stewardship arm was able to secure the needed ARC POWER funding to make the project possible.
“The training of FAA approved Aviation Maintenance Technicians is a logical fit for the University and all of our project partners,” McFaddin said. “As EKU continuously engages with its service region to find ways to diversify the economy in Kentucky’s Appalachia, we felt certain the AMT project would make a big impact toward that effort.”
"Through the Kentucky Appalachian Maintenance Technician Training Program, EKU has demonstrated a commitment to providing unique education and training opportunities not only in its service region, but across the Commonwealth," said Rep. Andy Barr, (R-KY). "I applaud EKU for their work to secure this important funding for our region, and for furthering their mission to improve the quality of life for the communities they serve."
Eastern’s Office of Regional Stewardship is currently collaborating with Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) to add the aviation maintenance certification program to its list of paid trainings for those displaced by the downturn in the coal mining industry and others who qualify under the program. If approved, individuals who meet need-based criteria will receive paid or partially paid tuition for their program training.
As part of EKU’s regional efforts, Eastern’s director of regional stewardship, Melissa Newman, and staff have been in discussions with several groups in Eastern Kentucky as well as community stakeholders. Including all investments in-kind, private and public, the funding amount totaled just over $2 million.
“It has been a long road to funding since we first began to talk about the creation of an EKU AMT training program,” Newman said. “Along the way, we gathered strategic partners and together we created a plan that, once implemented, will be truly transformational for Kentucky’s Appalachian counties.”
EKU and project partner Thoroughbred Aviation is working with the FAA and has filed the letters of intent to open the four schools. The university is planning four community events at each of the partnering airports that will be announced at a later date. The events are designed to both celebrate and recognize community partners.
In addition to the two community college and the four regional airports, other partners include One East Kentucky, AEP Kentucky Power’s KPEGG grants program in collaboration with HCTC & BSCTC, Hazard-Perry County Economic Development Alliance and EKCEP.