Area Development
Editor's Note: Copy supplied by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

Northeastern Kentucky has an available workforce that is ready to get back to work. That was one of the major selling points of the region when its newest resident, Braidy Industries, announced plans in 2017 for a 2.5 million- square-foot aluminum mill in Ashland’s EastPark. On the heels of the facility’s groundbreaking this past June, the company is taking the necessary steps to ensure its workforce is equipped with the necessary skills upon opening in 2020.

{{RELATEDLINKS}} Braidy has partnered with Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC) to offer the Advanced Integrated Technology (AIT) degree track to prepare students for potential employment at the company upon completion of the program. The first semester of courses for the track began on Aug. 13, with approximately 135 students enrolled in hopes of landing a position at the state-of-the-art rolling mill two years from now.

The idea for the degree track began with Braidy CEO Craig Bouchard, who immediately saw the significance in developing a workforce with a wide range of skills. The model stands as an example of how other businesses in rural areas across the state could encourage and expedite workforce training efforts.

Students will not only tackle subjects such as manufacturing principles, robotics, PLC programming, drive configuration and advanced electric motor control, but also gain valuable soft skills along the way. Critical thinking, communication skills, problem-solving strategies, and troubleshooting techniques for the latest high-tech equipment will be a substantial part of the AIT curriculum.

Students also will gain hands-on experience with training on equipment that will be utilized at Braidy, in addition to three four-week internship opportunities that will help to ensure a culture fit for each potential employee.

AIT graduates with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and who remain drug-free while meeting other application process requirements will be considered for full-time employment at Braidy, where starting wages are expected to be in the range of $65,000 per year.

The degree track is a particularly great opportunity for the northeastern Kentucky region, where the decline of the coal industry and closures and layoffs by other local employers — such as AK Steel and Kentucky Electric Steel — have left the workforce in search of new opportunities. Even before Braidy Industries opens its doors, the company is shining a light on how to embrace and expand community resources to meet local needs.