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Teaching skilled trades

Kentucky Community & Technical College System helps power the state 

Have you ever had a job that changed your life? Have you ever had the opportunity to work with your father? I had both when I was a summer laborer at Armco Steel in Ashland. 

My father spent his entire career working at the Ashland steel mill. He started out as a laborer and ended his career scheduling employees to work shifts in the blast furnace where the molted steel was produced. 

The summer that I worked in that plant of nearly 6,000 employees, I was exposed to men and women who were trained in skills such as electrical, pipe fitting, welding and other operations to make the plant function efficiently. I was on a low rung of the ladder and many times I would get the jobs that no one else wanted to do. 

I will never forget the day that my foreman came in and handed me a rubber suit and boots and said, “You are going to love your job today.” I was instructed to put on my suit and descend into an area below the mill to clean out a catch basin with a foul smelling, thick liquid. I learned that day that all jobs are important and that the skilled trades were a step above me. I knew that I needed to get to work and get some more training. 

I am a proud alumnus of what is now the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS). When I graduated from high school, I decided I would initially stay close to home due to the financial constraints on my family and due to being a first-generation college student. I attended Ashland Community College, which became part of KCTCS when the system was created in 1998, and got a start on a future career. I would go on to the University of Kentucky and get an engineering degree. 

In this month’s Kentucky Living, we highlight the critical nature of our skilled trades and the places to gain the training for these valuable skills. One organization that is meeting this need is KCTCS. It also partners with Kentucky’s electric co-ops to begin training our next generation of skilled line technicians. 

Kentucky’s future relies on having essential, skilled trade workers for economic development. We are lucky to have the KCTCS, which trains 82% of the state’s skilled trade workers, positions that are in short supply and high demand. 

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