Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) East Kentucky Partner BitSource and Grassroots Partner Addiction Recovery Care presented at the third-annual Workforce Summit, sponsored by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton in Lexington, Ky. on Tuesday, January 30.
Rusty Justice, co-owner of BitSource, a Pikeville, Ky.-based software and website development firm, has gained national attention for its “coal to code” approach, training laid-off coal miners to become software developers. Justice served on a panel discussion entitled: Proven Talent Recruiting, Retention, and Pipeline Development Case Studies with Selena Jolly, flexpath program director for Signature Healthcare; and Michael Rodenberg, president of Murakami USA.
Justice told the story of how BitSource grew out of the formation of SOAR.
“SOAR gave us a platform to share ideas,” said Justice. “We looked at other things, but I firmly believe that some of the best talent in software and website development resides in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.”
Justice showed those in attendance an NBC report on BitSource entitled “Hillbilly Hero.” The report frames the context of Justice’s love for Appalachia and his belief that its vast human capital has the transferable skills to thrive in the tech sector.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has recognized the affects the opioid epidemic has on the workforce of the state. Tim Robinson, president and CEO of Addiction Recovery Care, shared a presentation entitled: The Opioid Epidemic and Solving the Human Capital Crisis of our Time.
Robinson, who just celebrated 11 years of sobriety, spoke of Addiction Recovery Care’s holistic approach to treatment, and the challenges facing those in recovery to reenter the employment sector.
“Giving people a second chance is one of the best decisions you can make as a business owner,” Robinson told those in attendance at the Workforce Summit.
He highlighted the Peer Support Specialist program at his organization. The program is a collaboration of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), a Grassroots partner of SOAR, Sullivan University, and SOAR.
The program provides meaningful and purposeful vocational and soft-skills training to those in treatment. Robinson’s rationale is that recovery is best attained when a client finds gainful employment after treatment.
The program also immediately addressed a shortage for Addiction Recovery Care. Since 2013, the company opened 11 facilities and Peer Support Specialists play an important role in addiction treatment. So much so, that Kentucky Medicaid defines them as a Behavioral Health Practitioner.
“Essentially, this program enables those who meet the requirements to go from an IV needle user to a behavioral health practitioner,” said Robinson. “That’s an incredible turnaround, and it provides employment and a great resource for our clients who are going through recovery.”
Joshua Ball, associate executive director of SOAR, attended the Workforce Summit. He said stories, such as those at BitSource and Addiction Recovery Care, demonstrate the intrinsic impact of an organization like SOAR.
“We are not the solution, but we are the mechanism that brings the forward-thinking and solution-based people and organizations together,” he said. “Our Regional Blueprint is a forward-focused vision of a 21st century Appalachia that was created by the people of the region for the people of the region. It all starts with technology and those inspired to use it to impact their business, their organizations, and their lives. The work of BitSource, Addiction Recovery Care, and countless others shows we are no longer playing the characters of the new narrative of Appalachia Kentucky. We are the authors of that new narrative.”