They asked for “out of the box,” and so we delivered. After working for over 18 months on this concept from user experiences to analogous research in and out of state, to many, many, many industry conversations, I present our Work ready concept as the Paducah Regional Innovation Hub.

The executive summary sums it up nicely or you can just watch the slide presentation below it.

The University of Kentucky Paducah Campus, the Paducah Public Schools, WKCTC, Murray State University, Paducah Economic Development, Computer Services, Inc., the city of Paducah, and an additional and growing number of public/private regional partners propose a radically new approach to meeting the workforce needs of the 21st century economy. Led by skill demands of local, regional and web-based employers, this consortium has already orchestrated network activity around common community needs for developing a culture and pipeline to digital careers. With the financial assistance of CSI, Paducah Public Schools designed a K- Career Technology Pipeline and received a match to begin Project Lead the Way (PLTW) coursework for a CTE software engineering career pathway.  We initiated a PLTW computer science course at the middle school to seamlessly feed the high school programming. This fall we will start our first Introduction to IT course at the high school level using a virtual teacher mentoring model. Positive feedback from these early efforts is overwhelming. We have the right program, people, and an explosive industry. What we don’t have is space. Therefore, we propose a state of the art technology center where students and community members can build skills; a Regional Innovation Hub unique to Kentucky. There we will build on our existing blueprint to develop high tech talent in healthcare, IT, cybersecurity,  engineering technology, and logistics. The Regional Innovation Hub will be a true makerspace environment that allows for cross-disciplinary collaboration and reopen the lost model of intergenerational learning through mentorships, apprenticeships, and shared spaces with industry professionals. Entrepreneurial development, industry sponsored boot camps (already underway), competitive arena tech hack-a-thons and maker-faires will all be possible under one roof.  Our user-centric space will tap into both student motivation and our community needs allowing the free flowing exchange of knowledge, experience, and ideas, imbued by our local arts culture, that will jumpstart student learning by day and adult learning by night.  We will capitalize on this energy by steering students toward post-secondary education tracks leading to industry certifications that will translate to high wage, sustainable jobs both on and offline. The Regional Innovation Hub will not only be game changing for western Kentucky, but will in addition serve as a model for any school open to developing a highly skilled technologically based workforce.