Property will be used as a workforce training center, scheduled to open in spring 2022
Somerset Community College’s (SCC) footprint in the industrial community expanded today, positioning its workforce development programs for growth and providing much-needed support to local employers.
The Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) board of directors voted to sell two buildings and 35 acres in the Valley Oak Technology Complex to SCC that will be used as a workforce training center. The buildings, which formerly housed education-technology company Blackboard, will allow SCC to offer training programs in the areas of telecommunications and utilities, additive manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, HVAC/refrigeration, leadership and business in a rapidly growing industrial area.
SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said the purchase is another example of the enduring partnership SPEDA and SCC have worked diligently to build, and SPEDA’s efforts to listen to industry leaders who have indicated they need more trained employees.
“Quality educational opportunities are crucial to building a strong workforce and supporting our industrial community,” Girdler said. “Through continued dialogue with SCC about how we can work together to improve workforce development, we discovered a unique opportunity to position a career and technical training center right in the heart of the industrial park. This accomplishes two goals — meeting the needs of some of our largest employers while expanding education in Somerset-Pulaski County. It was a win for both of our organizations, but more importantly, for our community.”
Girdler said the addition of a training facility at Valley Oak is another step in transforming the Ky. 80/461 area into an industrial campus that serves employees and their families. SPEDA has already invested in an overflow tractor-trailer lot to relieve traffic congestion in the area and a food truck plaza for employees to have local food options during their breaks.
A $70 million federal road project is underway that will add lanes to Ky. 461 and a cloverleaf interchange at the 80/461 intersection, improving traffic flow and enhancing the connection between I-65 and I-75. SPEDA Commerce Park is a short distance away and will offer build-ready sites to industrial prospects. And four new facilities are either open or being built in the area, including Team Modern, Conner Logistics, AppHarvest and the Kentucky National Guard Regional Readiness Center.
SCC already has a presence in the area — its Lineman Training Center, which SPEDA donated to SCC in 2020, is located on 8 acres behind Valley Oak. It is home to SCC’s Lineman Training Program, a $2.5 million partnership between the college, SPEDA, South Kentucky RECC, Lake Cumberland Area Development District, and American Electric Power.
Now, in addition to lineman training, SCC will partner with the utility industry to offer a Utility Technician Apprenticeship Program (UTAP) at its new facility. UTAP will offer two pathways when it starts in November – above-ground or underground utility technician. This program has been established to fast-track utility technicians in a field that has a great need for employees.
SCC President Dr. Carey Castle said he is excited to announce the purchase, which better links SCC in its Somerset, London and Rockcastle areas because of the new facility’s centralized location.
“We will now be able to provide needed, focused training in specialized areas for short and long-term credentials that directly support our region’s growth and future economic development,” Castle said. “We are especially grateful for the vision and ongoing partnership with SPEDA that built the pathway for this opportunity and we are committed to the success and growth in this and all our service area.”
Renovations of the former Blackboard facility will take place in the coming months, with SCC expecting to welcome its first cohort of students at the center in spring 2022.
Girdler thanked Castle and the SCC leadership team for their dedication to improving workforce development.
“Workforce development and education are top priorities for SPEDA, and we couldn’t ask for a better partner in SCC to make significant advancements in these areas to improve retention and recruitment,” Girdler said. “I commend Dr. Castle, Vice President of Workforce Solutions Alesa Johnson, and the entire SCC leadership team for their vision and continued hard work to meet the needs of the business and industrial communities in this region.”