Discover how Owensboro's area colleges and universities keep the pipeline of talent flowing to local industries.
A major key to economic growth in the Greater Owensboro area is its success at maintaining a highly educated, skilled and trained workforce for existing and relocating businesses. Together, the region’s higher education institutions – Kentucky Wesleyan College, Brescia University, Western Kentucky University-Owensboro, Daymar College and Owensboro Community and Technical College (OCTC) – enroll more than 8,000 students and also serve as a valuable resource for workforce development, employee training and continuing education.
Developing In-Demand Skills
Daymar College’s Owensboro campus, for example, provides training and degrees in high-demand health-care fields, such as nursing and pharmacy technology. OCTC houses an Advanced Technology Center on its campus that offers programs in growing fields such as biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, HVAC and transportation technologies such as alternative fuels.
“The center is really the linchpin for building a skilled workforce and addressing community economic development here in the Owensboro area,” says Dr. Scott Williams, president of OCTC. “One of the things we are very good at is evaluating our programs and our course inventory to make sure they meet the needs of the local industry. That’s why we’re adding another 50,000 square feet to the center, to help us produce the most highly skilled employees for those trades that are really in high demand right now.”
Area colleges and universities continually assess their programs and courses to ensure they are meeting the needs of both students and industry.
“We have a staff member who works with the different industries to better gauge which academic programs they’re interested in hiring students from,” says WKU-Owensboro Chancellor Gene Tice. “Business informatics, for example, is a growing field, as is systems management.”
Pairing Students with Local Businesses
One of WKU’s advantages is its strong internship program that gives students hands-on training in their chosen fields and helps prepare them to land high-paying jobs after graduation, Tice says.
“We work with students individually and help prepare them to get placed in businesses throughout Owensboro,” Tice says. “The students tell us what they’re interested in and then we will work with those industry leaders to help get those students placed in internships. What we’ve learned through this process is that the students then leave college with employment opportunities that they may not have otherwise had. One thing that’s unique about our students is they want to stay and work right here in Owensboro.”
One reason graduates choose to stay in Owensboro is the region’s quality of life – to which the colleges and universities contribute both financially and culturally.
“First of all, we’re an intellectual asset, and then we’re an arts asset,” says Bart Darrell, president of Kentucky Wesleyan College. “Then there’s that civic capital that we put into the community that can’t really ever be measured in dollars but makes our community better. We’re a hub for civic engagement, and our faculty and our staff are involved in civic activities – everything from the arts to serving on the boards [of directors] of local organizations to offering their services as intellectual speakers – not to mention the money that’s spent and generated just because the college is here.”