West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) – Paducah, Kentucky

June 27, 2024

West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC)

Navigating Futures with the Student in Full View


Keeping step with industry needs while educating for future success

West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC), located in Paducah, Kentucky, is a vital educational institution serving the local community. Formed in 2003 through the consolidation of Paducah Community College and West Kentucky Technical College, WKCTC is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The college offers a comprehensive range of programs, including both transfer and technical options, designed to meet the diverse needs of its students and prepare them for successful careers.

Dr. Akin, Vice President for Academic Affairs, emphasized WKCTC’s dedication to helping students transition smoothly into higher education. “Our mission is to create seamless pathways for students to advance their education and careers,” Dr. Akin explains. The college offers Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees designed for easy transfer to four-year institutions, enabling students to continue their education and earn bachelor’s degrees.

Aligning with key industries

WKCTC’s Associate in Fine Arts and Digital Arts degree is just one example of the college’s commitment to meeting the needs of today’s job market. Ashley Burns, Director of Workforce Solutions, and Kate Senn, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, highlight the college’s technical programs, which focus on high-demand fields like allied health and nursing. The programs have seen strong enrollment and have successfully met local healthcare needs, showcasing the college’s effectiveness in addressing community demands.

Beyond health sciences, WKCTC offers various technical programs, including welding, automotive technology, and collision repair. The programs equip students with practical skills directly applicable to the workforce, enhancing employability and supporting the local economy.

“We are committed to aligning our programs with the top industries in Kentucky to ensure our graduates are workforce-ready,” Senn remarks. WKCTC aligns its programs with Kentucky’s top five industries: manufacturing, transportation, health sciences, information technology, and business, ensuring graduates are well-prepared for careers in key economic sectors.

Marine technology program

One of WKCTC’s unique aspects is its marine technology program, the only one in the state. The program trains marine firefighters and other industry professionals, highlighting the college’s ability to offer specialized training that meets specific regional needs. The program fills a crucial niche and exemplifies WKCTC’s innovative education and workforce development approach.

Dr. Akin details how the college offers an Associate in the Arts degree fully online to accommodate marine workers’ schedules. The flexible online format allows students to pursue their education and complete their credentials on time, ensuring they do not miss academic opportunities due to work schedules.

Burns elaborates on the program’s two tracks. The academic track enables students to earn certificates or associate degrees, providing a solid educational foundation for career advancement. Meanwhile, the workforce track focuses on practical, industry-specific training, such as radar training, marine firefighting, and CPR, tailored to meet the immediate needs of companies operating in the river industry.

Workforce partnerships

WKCTC excels in delivering customized training solutions based on business requirements. For instance, the college has responded to the demand for deckhand training, collaborating with industry partners to offer courses that enhance employability and meet local workforce needs. The partnerships address immediate job market demands and prepare students for Coast Guard certifications integrated into the college’s certificates and degrees.

Burns emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships with local industries and businesses. “Listening to community needs is crucial; it allows us to tailor our programs to meet workforce demands effectively,” Burns states. The proactive approach enables WKCTC to offer relevant, high-quality training that benefits students and employers.

Student support

The Student Success Center is key in supporting students, particularly those enrolled in online programs. The center encompasses various academic supports, including success coaches who work closely with a select group of students, helping them navigate academic and non-academic barriers. The interaction with success coaches can occur in person or virtually, via email, or through platforms like Microsoft Teams, providing flexibility to meet students’ needs.

Given that a significant portion of WKCTC’s student population is engaged in online learning, the college has deliberately offered robust support for these students. One such initiative is the implementation of BrainFuse, a 24/7 tutoring service that caters to the varied schedules of online students. The service is particularly beneficial for those in the marine technology program who may have irregular schedules due to their 21 days on, 21 days off work cycle. BrainFuse provides students with the necessary academic support regardless of their work hours, ensuring they can access help whenever needed.

Commitment to mission and vision

WKCTC’s mission is to promote equity by championing student success, providing excellence in teaching and learning, and advancing economic development within a diverse and inclusive campus community. The mission is reflected in every college’s project and program, ensuring each initiative aligns with the region’s needs. The college’s dedication to this mission is evident in its active engagement with advisory committees and business contacts, ensuring that all programs are relevant and beneficial to students and the local community.

WKCTC has consistently excelled in student achievement, ranking in the top 10% within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). The college’s outstanding performance has been recognized by the Aspen Institute as a top community college six times and three times as a college of distinction. A significant indicator of WKCTC’s success is its graduation rates, which have substantially increased from 43.5% in 2017 to 51.5%, placing WKCTC among the highest in the nation.

The impressive achievement is largely due to the college’s intentional approach to helping students choose the right classes and stay on their path to success. As highlighted by Dr. Akin, the integration of workforce classes that transition effortlessly into academic programs ensures that students’ time spent learning is both valuable and productive, fostering a smooth journey toward graduation and beyond.


Prior learning credit and community partnerships

WKCTC continues to innovate with initiatives like the credit for prior learning programs, recognizing students’ existing skills and experiences. Statewide curriculum committees have identified industry certifications corresponding to certain college courses, ensuring students receive credit for their prior learning. The program is particularly beneficial for students with industry experience, such as those in the Coast Guard, allowing them to optimize their time at the college and accelerate their educational progress.

In addition to academic advancements, WKCTC maintains strong community partnerships, especially within the healthcare sector. Local hospitals like Mercy Health and Baptist Health Paducah provide clinical training opportunities and financial support, helping to fund nursing faculty salaries. WKCTC also completed a $3.5 million endowment campaign for healthcare accounts, enhancing the nursing program’s quality.

Responding to the critical need for RNs, WKCTC has developed a hybrid LPN-to-RN program. The program allows Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) to transition to Registered Nurses (RNs) while maintaining their full-time jobs. The hybrid model combines online coursework with hands-on training sessions on Friday evenings and Saturdays, providing flexibility for working professionals. The initiative not only addresses the workforce shortage in nursing but also supports students’ career advancement.

Embracing technology and future goals

Technology has significantly enhanced WKCTC’s ability to meet students’ needs, particularly through online learning and hybrid formats. The approach allows students to complete lecture materials online while dedicating their valuable on-campus time to hands-on experiences, which is particularly beneficial in programs like nursing and welding. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of these technologies, and the college has continued to leverage them to improve educational outcomes.

Looking ahead, WKCTC aims to meet regional needs and support economic development projects. The recent collaboration with the University of Kentucky to launch a Computer Engineering Technology Associate in Applied Science degree exemplifies this forward-thinking approach. The program enables students to transfer to the University of Kentucky College of Engineering at Paducah, addressing a community-identified need for advanced engineering education.

K-12 pathways

WKCTC’s commitment to student success is further demonstrated through its partnerships with K-12 institutions. The dual credit program allows high school students to complete general education courses and entry-level technical courses, providing a clear pathway from high school to college and the workforce. The initiative ensures that students can transition smoothly into occupational areas or continue their education, meeting the region’s educational and economic demands. The ongoing dialogue with high schools and area technology centers helps align educational offerings with regional needs, preparing students for academic and professional success.

National recognition

WKCTC’s outstanding achievements have earned it the designation of a Center of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education, the only program in Kentucky to receive this honor. “This national recognition underscores our leadership and dedication to maritime education,” Dr. Akin notes, highlighting the college’s role in preparing students for successful careers in this critical industry.

West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) remains dedicated to fostering student success, supporting community needs, and embracing technological advancements. With a clear mission and vision, strong industry and educational partnerships, and a commitment to innovation, WKCTC is well-positioned to continue significantly impacting the region’s educational landscape and economic development.


West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC)

What: West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) is a public community college located in Paducah that offers a wide range of academic and technical programs.

Where: Paducah, Kentucky

Website: https://westkentucky.kctcs.edu/


Goodwill Industries of Kentucky – GoodwillKY.org

You may also like