By Laura Faulkner
Coal has been the lifeblood of the economy in Kentucky dating back to the opening of the first commercial coal mine in 1820. But over the past few years, coal production in Kentucky plummeted to a level not seen since the Great Depression. In fact, the decline in coal in Eastern Kentucky has led to the loss of approximately 10,000 coal industry jobs since 2010.
This decline has created challenges for communities in Appalachia that have relied on the coal economy for years. TechHire Eastern Kentucky (TEKY) saw an opportunity to bring opportunity to teach underemployed and unemployed Kentuckians how to code — and then connect them to hiring tech employers.
“TechHire Eastern Kentucky — or TEKY — really began as a way to provide out-of-work people with a fast track to earning tech industry-recognized certifications. These certifications will demonstrate skills learned and stand in for traditional two- or four-year college degrees, with the idea that these people will fill available positions in the technology industry,” said Michael Cornett, director of Agency Expansion for Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), and local project director for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant that is helping fund the initiative. “TEKY is harnessing the power of collaboration between the public and private sectors to ultimately build a viable tech sector in Eastern Kentucky from the ground up. No one has really attempted this kind of large-scale effort in our region before, and we’re already learning lessons from our first cohort that we’ll be able to apply to the second cohort of TEKY interns. By the time TEKY is three years old, we hope to have prepared up to 200 people for careers in technology jobs, with many of them going on to work right here in Eastern Kentucky.”