Senator Rand Paul's visit highlights SKYCTC's technical facilities, programs
By Aaron Mudd- BG Daily News
As older workers retire from jobs in the skilled trades, officials at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College made the case for vocational education to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, during a campus tour on Monday.
"America has changed so much in just the last generation," SKYCTC President Phillip Neal said. "With so many people retiring and fewer people entering the workforce amongst our youth ... I think it's important that we have high quality training programs to train the folks that are seeking these skills sets so that they can replace the wealth of talent that we're losing in our retiree generation."
Politicians need to understand how to serve their working constituents, he said.
"From a political standpoint, they need to understand the infrastructure that we have in place to support the education and training needs of this new generation coming into the workforce and how important it is that we emphasis to our youth the career possibilities that exist in our society," he said.
Paul seemed receptive to that message while he toured the college's admissions office, culinary and automotive centers and classes on respiratory care and radiography. He asked several questions about available programs and was particularly interested in the college's welding education.
Paul told officials that his travels around Kentucky have taught him many people aren't willing to work for a starting wage of $13 an hour.
"It's not that there's not enough jobs," Paul said during the tour. "There's not enough workers."
During the tour, welding professor Steve Hatcher showed off a piece of welding equipment to Paul and explained the college's welding program.
"We try to teach all aspects of welding," he told Paul.
Neal added that students often have trouble finishing the program because employers want to snatch them up to fill positions.
"So many employers are seeking individuals," Hatcher agreed.
When Paul checked out SKYCTC's automotive shop, he was given a signed photograph of students posing next to a Chevrolet Camaro they restored for the On Track Camaro competition against the Warren County Area Technology Center.
After the tour, Paul said he's done a lot of traveling around the state, visiting 20 or 30 businesses, he said.
"Every company has told me they need more workers and they need skilled workers," Paul said, adding it's important to draw attention to the skilled trades. "I think one thing that's important for kids to know is that you can succeed, you can do really well with a skill. If you're an electrician you can make a very good living ... . If you get a skill, I promise you there is a place out there for you to succeed."
Paul added it's important to have a range of education options open for different learning styles.
"It's important to have people who can fix and repair engines, people who can make engines, people who can work in our skilled trades," he said. "I think in some ways we may have deemphasized or not emphasized that enough in the last couple of decades. I mean a lot of kids go into college for, you know, general business degrees when in reality they might have been better off with a skilled technical degree."
Paul said he appreciated seeing how SKYCTC replicates work environments students will see on the job, such as robotic welder equipment and busy automotive body shops.
"They really are, I think, able to simulate what goes on in industry," he said.
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