Hazard, KY. – Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), spoke to community college leaders from across Appalachia at the Community Colleges of Appalachia Fall Conference on Wednesday, October 30, at Hazard Community and Technical College.
“The role of community and technical colleges are critically important to community and economic development efforts across the country, but they play an even larger role in areas such as Appalachia Kentucky,” said Arnett. “Our SOAR colleges (Ashland, Big Sandy, Hazard, Maysville, Somerset, and Southeast Kentucky) have been engaged in our work since the beginning, and we value the role that our colleges play in not only transfer education, but also technical education and providing support for existing business and industry through workforce solutions.”
The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) and its SOAR colleges are Founding Partners of SOAR. SOAR has worked with the colleges on a variety of collaborative projects, including a $3.5 million Appalachian Regional Commission grant that created Digital Careers Now (DCN). This program has a consortium of partners, including Big Sandy, Hazard, and Southeast Kentucky community and technical colleges, and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), that helps provide accelerated, industry-driven training to employ people in high-growth sectors such as remote work.
Arnett encouraged community and technical college leaders to think outside of the box, to reach higher, and to dream bigger.
“To achieve outcomes that have never been realized, we must do things that have never been done,” he told those in attendance. “We do not exist for marginal change; we exist to create transformative change.”
Arnett shared SOAR’s Blueprint for the Future of Appalachia. “The seven goals are simply this: connectivity and the six ways we are going to leverage it to create opportunities,” he added. “We believe that technology can and is disrupting poverty throughout our region, and connectivity has a critical role to play in our other six goals – Small Business in the Digital Economy, 21st Century Workforce, Industrial Recruitment, Healthy Communities, Local Foods, and Regional Tourism.”