Earlier this year, Hazard Community and Technical College received a grant and partnered with KTECH to create apprenticeships for various careers in the medical field. Within the next few weeks, high school students in the area will begin working on those apprenticeships.

“The state of Kentucky is one of four states that received a federal grant, and Perry County is where the state allocated it,” said Tim Koogler, the KTECH program director. The grant, Koogler said, is going to be used for Hazard High School, Perry County Central High School and Buckhorn High School, and it is a three year grant with the understanding that if progress is shown it will be extended, he said.

“We match students with employers to where they can begin a paid apprenticeship in high school,” Koogler said. “It is only medical right now, but we are going to expand to other fields next year,” he continued, explaining that the current partners for the grant are ARH, Primary Care Center and the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health.

Available career pathway options include:  nursing (CNA, LPN, RN) sonography, pharmacy technician, radiography, surgical technician, central services, community health care, telehealth technician and medical assistant. Once this group of apprentices begin, KTECH members will begin researching the needs of the area and recruit employers in other fields such as manufacturing, Koogler said.

Applicants will be selected by the employers, and grades, attendance and character traits are all considered in the application process, said Koogler. There is no limit on how many people can apply from each school, however, there will only be a select number of applicants chosen, he continued.

Currently, Koogler said, there will only be five apprentices for ARH and five apprentices for Primary Care Center for, but they hope to expand to 30 students next year.

“We’re going to have ten kids starting work within the next month, the next few weeks,” said Koogler. He continued, “Fran Feltner at UK, she is going to take 20 kids in January 2020.”

The currently partnered employers have received applications for this year and are reviewing them, and they will choose apprentices soon, Koogler said.

The process for the apprenticeships, he said, is relatively simple. When students enter eighth (8th) grade, they will begin health career exploration and be introduced to KTECH, said Koogler. In their freshman (9th) and sophomore (10th) grades, students will enroll in dual credit classes, as well as participate in career mentoring and job shadowing. In the junior (11th) and senior (12th) grades, Koogler said the students will begin taking specialized dual credit courses, and begin the youth apprenticeships in the available fields. From there, Koogler said, it is hoped that upon their graduation from high school, students will have an idea of what they want to do and will attend HCTC, then obtain a career in the field they apprenticed in.

This opportunity, he said, will help eliminate the fear of not knowing what to do and will decrease the number of people going to college and not using their degree. “A lot of kids work in high school, like at McDonald’s and there’s nothing wrong with that, but this gives them the opportunity to gain money doing something that they really might want to do,” Koogler said. “They need to find that out now instead of wasting four years of college.”

Koogler said both school districts have been very supportive in this endeavor. “I can’t stress enough, the reason this is going to work is because the superintendents and principals at all schools have been so easy to work with, accommodating and enthused. There have been no speed bumps whatsoever,” said Koogler.

“These kids can actually be credentialed in some of these pathways when they graduate so they can go on and start work,” Koogler said. “I wish somebody had this vision for me when I was that age, because I went to school a whole year and still didn’t know what I wanted to do, so it would’ve been good for someone like me,” said Koogler.

“We’re starting off slow, so we can let this gain traction,” he said. “The state of Kentucky wants to start this at all community colleges, this is a pilot starter program and everybody is looking at us.”

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