EKU announces Appalachia Aviation Maintenance Technician Program in collaboration with KCTCS colleges

Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas speaks at a fly-in press conference held at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport in Chavies, Ky. on Monday, May 6.

Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas speaks at a fly-in press conference held at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport in Chavies, Ky. on Monday, May 6.

FRANKFORT, Ky.  –  SOAR Principal Officers Gov. Matt Bevin and Congressman Hal Rogers joined Congressman Andy Barr, along with officials from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS), and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), to promote EKU's new Kentucky Appalachia Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Training Project. EKU is an East Kentucky Partner of SOAR and KCTCS is a Founding Partner of SOAR.

Accompanied by state and local officials and community leaders, the group held four fly-in press conferences on Monday, May 6 — at Central Kentucky Regional Airport (Richmond), London-Corbin Airport (London), Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport (Chavies), and Big Sandy Regional Airport (Debord) — to discuss this exciting workforce training initiative that will enhance economic development in Eastern Kentucky and across the Commonwealth.

“Kentucky’s aerospace industry is soaring to new heights, and this innovative program is poised to provide additional fuel to propel our growth,” said Gov. Bevin. “The Kentucky Appalachia AMT Training Project represents a unique collaboration between EKU, KCTCS, and our regional airports, and we are grateful for ARC’s significant investment supported by Congressman Rogers and Congressman Barr. This cutting-edge workforce training program will provide strong economic opportunity for citizens of Eastern Kentucky and will further solidify the Commonwealth’s position as the center of engineering and manufacturing excellence in America.”

The Kentucky Appalachia AMT Training Project will provide individuals displaced by the downturn in the coal industry, as well as veterans and others seeking employment, in the Commonwealth's ARC counties the opportunity to earn an industry recognized certification as aviation maintenance technicians.

Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson, left, is shown with SOAR Principal Officers Congressman Hal Rogers, center, and Governor Matt Bevin during a press conference at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport in Chavies, Ky. on Monday, May 6.

Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson, left, is shown with SOAR Principal Officers Congressman Hal Rogers, center, and Governor Matt Bevin during a press conference at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport in Chavies, Ky. on Monday, May 6.

These Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications will result in several significant statewide impacts, including:

• equipping our workforce with a highly sought-after skill critical to Kentucky's rapidly expanding aerospace industry,

• helping to fill the growing demand for AMTs and other avionics specialists that will support our ever-increasing air transport needs,

• spurring vital growth for Kentucky's regional airports that, in turn, can lead to FAA priority funding for infrastructure upgrades, and

• augmenting industrial recruitment efforts, as the Commonwealth increases its reputation as America's engineering and manufacturing hub of excellence.

“Regional airport directors tell us that aviation mechanics are currently overbooked and are turning away airplane maintenance work, so this program will boost our workforce and allow us to keep those opportunities in Kentucky’s Appalachian region,” said Congressman Rogers. “I applaud EKU and the ARC for realizing the impact that this program can have on economic development in Eastern Kentucky and the value that these mechanics will add for safety and efficiency at our rural airports.”

EKU's Appalachia AMT Training Project was recently awarded a $1.46 million ARC Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant. Enrollment for the 18-month program will begin soon, with instruction set to start in January 2020. Students will receive classroom instruction at EKU or KCTCS campuses, in addition to hands-on training at the four participating regional airports.

“We are thrilled to launch a program that will help Kentucky’s workforce with a highly sought skill that is relevant to our region’s economic and industrial growth, most notably the region’s emerging aerospace industry cluster,” said EKU President Michael Benson. “This FAA certified program will be strategically located within Kentucky’s Appalachian counties so those who need to train can become certified aviation mechanics without having to leave their communities.”

Among the officials also participating in today's events were ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas, Kentucky Department for Local Government (DLG) Commissioner Sandy Dunahoo, Kentucky Aviation Commissioner Todd Bloch, Hazard Community & Technical College President Jennifer Lindon, and Big Sandy Community & Technical College President Sherry Zylka.

Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR, applauded the collaboration between EKU and KCTCS colleges.

“We are fortunate to have leaders in higher education across Appalachia Kentucky that understand the transformative power of access,” he said. “This project not only brings new opportunities for our people; it also leverages the great network of airports we have across the region.”

For more information about the Kentucky Appalachia AMT Training Project, please visit https://www.EKU.edu/FlyKY.