Keeping up with the technology needed to educate and train students took a step forward last week for students at the Laurel campus of Somerset Community College.

A special fundraising event was held in the technology building at College Park property to encourage donations for the purchase of a robot that will assist students in the industrial maintenance, electrical and welding technology programs.

The "60 Minutes for $60,000" event brought out some of the county's leaders and business people to learn about a robot that will benefit students in those programs with easier training opportunities. And those donors not only raised the needed $60,000, it exceeded that amount by nearly half again.

"This is an educational tool that can assist in multi purposes," said Chris Hall, department chairman for the Career and Technical Education at SCC. "This can assist in palleting, parts materials, sorts, imitate welding. It is also portable, runs on a 120V so it doesn't need special hookups, and it has its own air compressor."

Hall said the cost of the robot was approximately $60,000 - which initiated the "60 Minutes for $60,000" fundraiser event. Travis McQueen, director of the Laurel Campus, said the tool would benefit not only the students, but area businesses as well. "Our students go to work for different businesses around here. We have graduates who have gone on and work at ABC Automotive, Flowers Bakery, CTA Acoustics, Aisin, Firestone and Hearthside," he said. "The training programs we have here benefit the community and the businesses."

Carey Castle, president of Somerset Community College, said the success of the students is dependent upon support from the community and at an affordable cost.

"Technical training is the solution for the workforce in Kentucky," Castle said. "We've been able to lower the costs of college tuition from $5,200 per student when we started to $1,600 now in 2019."

Castle also provided some hard facts regarding the success of their programs. Castle said the college had awarded 37,128 credentials last year and that their graduates will contribute to 75% of the workforce development. Somerset Community College is making great strides in numerous areas of the economic success. SCC offers various degrees and certificates in the health care industry, as well as their culinary program.

"Our aviation program - that's called one of the best kept secrets around," Castle said. "But we don't want it to be secret - we want people to know about it."

The college continues to strive to meet the demands of local industry and be on the brink of cutting-edge technology necessary to ensure good paying jobs and training opportunities for local citizens. The robotic purchase will continue that mission, which spurred the fundraising event that will benefit existing and future programs at the Laurel campus.

Their efforts paid off well - donations began being announced and the hands on the clock were moved steadily toward the '60' mark to signify reaching the fundraising goal. But those in attendance got a pleasant surprise - within that 60 minutes designated for the fundraising effort, the donations totaled approximately $93,000! Officials said that with the sale of themed gift baskets, the college raised over $100,000 in the event.

SCC is making an impact on local students, having served 3,806 Laurel County residents since the fall semester of 2014. Their dual credit program has involved 553 high school students and has sent 81 workforce students into local businesses. The college has also awarded 329 Associate of Arts/Associate of Science degrees and 432 Associate of Applied Science, 247 diplomas and 1,899 certificates. Nearly 1,000 students have received credentials in the Allied Health field.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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