'A lot of cool stuff in the making'

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Todd Central students participating in programs at the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center will be able to earn T-shirts during the school year.

Several companies from neighboring communities have already shown an interest in the 20 adults who are expected to enroll in certificate and training courses at the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Todd County.

"We have four companies lined up (who are) interesting in hiring students out of the program," noted Dr. Eric Keeling, the chief operating officer for the center, which recently got a new name and a new direction for the coming school year.

A 1987 graduate of Todd County Central High School, Keeling is also new to the facility, having just been announced to head up the technology center.

The center sits adjacent to the high school on the same property and will offer programs in industrial maintenance and welding for 80 Todd Central students as well as evening courses for adults.

Keeling noted that students taking part in the adult manufacturing courses will receive certification for 10-hour and 30-hour training sessions conducted through the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

They will also receive certification for completing the core curriculum of the not-for-profit National Center for Construction Education and Research foundation.

Adult participants will take part in three six-week courses during their first semester in the program and will complete a second series of six-week courses during a second semester, going to classes at night and working days with an employer who will be partnering with the center to offer job opportunities.

Keeling said he also has plans to approach "a really big company" about an apprenticeship and get that worked out for the technology center's students.

"We have a lot of opportunities that we're running down," observed Keeling, who said the center's aim is to help the community realize its goals and dreams.

For high school students, he said the focus will be on real-world projects, with the youth doing volunteer work in the community, i.e., wiring buildings and fulfilling other tasks that will require the students to perform skills trade work.

Programs for high school youth will also include classroom instruction.

Keeling has already met with folks about the Green River Academy, a historic site in Elkton that was once a girls' school, and his industrial maintenance students are slated to do repair work on that facility, according to Keeling.

He said seniors will gain job experience through a cooperative program.

"In addition to this, there will be outreach to the (Todd County) Middle School to coordinate tours," said Keeling, who noted that high school students will also have an opportunity to teach the younger students and do classes with them.

Keeling observed that there is "a lot of cool stuff in the making" for the center, which first opened its doors in 2016 as the Todd County Career Path Institute.

There will be efforts to market the building and its programs, and students taking part in its offerings will be encouraged to "Be the Change," a new logo that will be emblazoned on T-shirts and caps that the youth will earn in some fashion.

"They did something good to get that shirt," said Keeling of the clothing that will never be sold to students; the items are sponsored by BR Knuckles Insurance.

Keeling said teachers will be telling their young students just how awesome they are, something he says will impact the students' attitudes and their performance.

The new chief operating officer, who most recently was an assistant principal at Bowling Green High School, said he is excited about being in Todd County and being at the helm of the technology center where he sees immense possibilities.

"(We're going to) specialize in helping students realize their full potential so they can be successful," said Keeling, adding that they'll also work with youth to let them know they can be successful in college if they'd like to follow that path.

A lot of companies will pay more to employees with associate degrees, he said.

Keeling said graduates in both of the school's programs will leave with CPR/First Aid certification and fork lift certification, and he said the center will host EMT classes beginning in September, in addition to its manufacturing classes for adults.

"We're building it as we go," Keeling noted of his plans for the center.

Instructors for the facility will include Tim Hall, a licensed electrician with five years' experience who will teach the school's industrial maintenance program, and Paul Buchner, the welding teacher. Adjunct faculty will teach evening classes.

For more information, contact Keeling on Twitter @DrEricKeeling1.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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