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SOAR summit kicks off in Corbin for the first time

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:16 PM EDT
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CORBIN, Ky. (WYMT) - For the first time ever, Corbin is the host city of the SOAR summit.

The event kicked off this year with a panel discussion of seven college leaders from across the Eastern Kentucky region. The discussion focused mostly on post-secondary education and how to better prepare students.

It was a day of problem-solving and discussing as college leaders work to improve the future of Eastern Kentucky’s workforce, saying broadband internet can keep students at home when they graduate instead of moving away for a job.

”It’s the job that they wanted, it’s the income level that they wanted its the professional accomplishments that they wanted but they can stay in the home county where they want to stay around friends and family,” said Dr. Jay Morgan, president of Morehead State University.

Leaders said post-secondary education can help fill jobs in Appalachia and create a pipeline that provides the workforce and its future with workers.

“I think that unfortunately we’ve created a dichotomy between those that have a post secondary degree and those who are ready for the workforce when they’re really the same thing,” said Dr. David McFaddin, the president of Eastern Kentucky University.

The panelists also added that employers are looking for team building and communication skills, so they should be part of degree and certification programs.

“All our institutions on Kentucky all our post secondary institutions because we get our students out in the community so when they go back home they have this really strong mindset to become the mayor of Somerset or the mayor of Corbin,” said Dr. Lori Stewart, Executive Vice President and Provost of the University of Louisville.

The panel discussion also focused on the need for healthcare workers and how the need only continues to increase.

“The demand that we have and the labor force and matching that up with what our young people and our nontraditional population our workforce training and development need,” said Dr. Lori Werth, the provost at UPIKE. “Educating these students within our communities in particular rural and remote these students will stay and serve.”

The Provost at the University of Louisville also suggested helping students become skilled in more than one area.

”So if our student is an English major, she will also learn how to do coding, she’ll learn how to use technology for her assignments,” said Dr. Lori Stewart Gonzalez, Executive Vice President and Provost at the University of Louisville. “She has a skill set in a discipline but also has a skill set in written and oral communication.”

The leaders say employers are looking for communication and leadership skills as well.

“We get our students out in the community they learn the communities; they learn to deal with people,” Gonzalez added.

The president of Morehead State University said the school finished a NASA contract to further space science in the region.

Werth added that it all starts with K-12 students.

”Right now I think the miss for us is starting later and the process, the system that we have in place in the foundation of secondary level, it’s wonderful, it’s growing, it’s robust,” Werth said.

All of the leaders discussed the value of a post-secondary education, whether it be two or four years. They also added that mental health is very important for a student to succeed.

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