What goes into building a house? During a time of economic transition from a coal economy, Fahe’s partners in eastern Kentucky look to coal miners for answers

Fahe and our Members are creating solutions to keep displaced miners and their families in their communities. Seeking new partners is a crucial step, and Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) is a welcome ally. HCTC is honing in on the fact that unemployed miners have specialized skillsets that translate well to jobs in housing. With over 8,000 coal miners unemployed since 2010 in the southeastern Kentucky area HCTC serves, looking toward economic transition is vital to these coal-impacted communities.

“We have to look for creative opportunities for our students since they can no longer work in the mines,” noted HCTC President Dr. Jennifer Lindon. To that end, HCTC reopened its Construction Technology Program this fall. The program can lead to careers in residential and light commercial construction, or get folks started in business as an independent contractor.

Former coal miners have skills in operating and maintaining equipment that point to careers as carpenters or Heating/Cooling/Air Conditioning (HVAC) contractors. Miners also have experience with problem solving around technology that complements work in housing design and energy efficiency.

HCTC is working to connect coal miners’ skills to job opportunities that keep displaced workers from leaving the region for employment elsewhere. Students in HCTC’s Occupational Technology programs, which include Construction Technology, as well as HVAC and Electrical programs, get hands-on experience in the HCTC Smart Energy Training Center which opened in 2015. Touring this fully enclosed, onsite classroom is like walking onto a construction site. It’s a three-bedroom home that offers various construction methods and materials, allowing students to apply what they are learning in real time. The house features various types of siding, roofing, and framing, so students work in various simulated settings. It also includes aspects of energy efficient technology, such as geothermal heating/cooling and solar panels.

“We wanted to offer a hands-on training model so students can see on-the-job subcontractor teams and how the process goes from start to finish,” said HCTC Occupational Technology Dean Tony Back. “Our Computer-Aided Drafting and Design students complete drawings; they pass them on to our Air Conditioning Technology students who do load calculations and install systems; Electrical Technology students then run electric.”

Mining jobs translate well to jobs in construction which can keep established community leaders employed in the region during this economic transition. Fahe looks forward to further collaboration with HCTC and our Members in eastern Kentucky as we work together to expand job creation and bolster the local economy.