By: Eugenia Jones
Opportunities exist for the community and the Center to bond and flourish
In addition to increased efforts in the marketing of the McCreary Center and the direct recruitment of students, Somerset Community College (SCC) leaders may find opportunities for further growth and development of the Center if the County is successful in securing and implementing two workforce type programs that are currently being sought.
First, the McCreary County Education Foundation has expressed a willingness to provide support for the efforts of the local Leadership McCreary team in achieving “work ready community certification” for McCreary County. According to Susan Stephens, who is the McCreary County Economic Development and Community Director as well as McCreary County Education Foundation president, the McCreary Center could play a key role in providing programs and curriculum aligned with the skills needed by local employers in their work force.
According to Somerset Community College President, Dr. Jo Marshall, college personnel have already been supportive of the process in Pulaski County. Pulaski County recently received its workforce readiness designation, and Marshall would like the college to focus on other counties.
In addition, Diana Bybee, Human Resource Manager at Outdoor Venture Corporation (OVC) in Stearns and member of the McCreary Education Foundation, elaborated on an apprenticeship program being pursued by OVC which, along with assistance from the Foundation, has the potential for impact at the McCreary Center.
In an effort to bring business, industry, and education together to meet the local workforce needs of employers and communities, Bybee is working with Mike Donta, Deputy Commissioner, Supervisor of Apprenticeship for KY Department of Labor, and others to develop the Kentucky Apprenticeship program.
After attending a meeting earlier this year, Bybee is excited and optimistic about the program.
“It’s definitely in the preliminary stage and not a done deal,” Bybee stated. “However, we are hopeful the KY Department of Labor will work with us in getting the apprenticeship program started. These apprenticeships assist adults who are already in jobs gain the specific certifications and skills needed for advancement and better pay. We definitely hope OVC can serve as a pilot project and see success. The apprenticeship program would then have the potential to expand to other businesses within the community. Hopefully, classes for skill certifications could be offered at the McCreary Center and make it much more affordable and practical for local adult workers to advance to higher paying careers. There’s not a lot of cost to the individual in the apprenticeship program so it eliminates a lot of the debt associated with advanced degrees.”
According to Bybee, the Foundation will sponsor a luncheon meeting in the near future to gather ideas and data in order to advance the apprenticeship program. Local business leaders, members of the Chamber Commerce, and others will be invited to attend. Bybee stated that McCreary Center Director Steve Hammons has demonstrated interest in the program.
In addition to the Center playing a potential role in local workforce development opportunities, SCC leaders spoke of working with the community to improve the “livability” of the local area through increased community use of the Center.
SCC Director of Advancement Cindy Clouse spoke favorably of the development of non-credit, life-long learning classes if sufficient interest is shown within the community. A prime example of this type of class would be the use of the Center’s impressive 2D and 3D art studios as venues for offering community classes in the arts.
The availability of non-credit, personal growth opportunities would not only improve the “livability” of McCreary County for current residents but would also serve as a “livability” bonus for those looking to potentially relocate and establish a local business.
College officials are also open to the idea of using the Center for more public events. With the strikingly designed interior of the culinary arts building, the Center offers a perfect location for hosting local and regional events that showcase McCreary County as a progressive community.
“It boils down to communication,” Clouse stated. “If an organization in the community, such as tourism or local government, feels the Center can play a role in an event, they should contact us through my office.”
President Marshall explained the College does have to consider issues such as the liability and operational costs of special events; yet, at the same time, she stressed the college’s desire to work with communities.
“I don’t have an issue with any community working in partnership with the College,” Marshall stated. “We are very proud of the Center and the McCreary County area. We want to work as partners as much as we can.”
McCreary Center Director Hammons also stated his desire for more community involvement at the Center.
Future success of the McCreary Center may well depend on a revival of the spirit of determination displayed by the early McCreary County group of citizens who worked so tirelessly and persistently to establish a college center in McCreary County in 1992.
Without more support and involvement, the Center will not flourish. Better communication and more cooperative efforts and planning are needed from members of the community, the Foundation, the local school district, local government leaders, and those in the Somerset Community College system if the McCreary Center is to survive and provide the economic, cultural, and educational opportunities originally intended by its founders.