Operating Sharing partner prepares students for critical technical careers

Submitted by bstephens on Wed, 05/25/2022

Eddie Shelton’s high school students love extra credit work. They excitedly share details about each “assignment” they receive when people in the community ask them for help fixing appliances. “It’s a big deal to them to be able to fix them,” he said. 

This isn’t typical homework because these aren’t typical students. This is the next generation of Appalachia’s leading workforce, and they attend the Floyd County Area Technology Center (ATC), in Martin, Kentucky. 

The hands-on center gives students technical skills training to help them transition successfully into the professional world. Students can learn health sciences, nursing, information technology, welding, HVAC, electrical tech, and auto mechanics while earning industry certifications and dual credits. 

“We are a state-operated facility, but we serve local high school students from feeder schools,” said Jeff Shannon, Ed.D., principal at ATC. 

ATC is a community partner of Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) Operation Sharing Program. Operation Sharing recently received two new gas dryers donated by Good 360. “New appliances are a rare donation,” said Brian Conley, who acquires Gift-in-Kind donations for Operation Sharing in Paintsville, Kentucky. 

“They’ll be excellent teaching demonstration tools, as students haven’t had the chance to see the internals of gas dryers yet,” Shannon said. “They will be taken apart and put together many times.” 

“Students have diagnosed electrical issues and repaired washers and dryers during lab activities this year,” he noted. “They can take this new and specialized knowledge, apply it to their own home some day and save money, or apply it as a career.” 

Students learn skills across each program, from repairing their own vehicles to balancing their checking accounts. “I like to expose them to a lot of different things, like working on the dryers, which works with the HVAC department and introduces them to both gas and electric,” said Shelton, who teaches the electrical tech curriculum.

ATC students help beautify the campus as part of their education, too. They have repaired the Center’s building by painting it, installing HVAC ductwork, and replacing the fluorescent lighting with LED. Students and faculty used an $8,000 grant to build a large outdoor student pavilion, which involved laying rebar, pouring concrete, building the wooden structure, and running electricity to the space. 
The center supports the school district’s needs, too. “If a student needs help in mathematics, they can come to the ATC and take welding or carpentry, learn fractions, read tapelines, cut out metal with tight tolerances with a plasma cutter, etc.,” Shannon said. 

Floyd County is in the Central Region of Appalachia, designated as a distressed county by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Building a viable local workforce is a critical component to the region’s economic development.

“We see some students leave, but many, especially our welding, HVAC, and nursing students are in high demand and often go directly into local jobs,” Shannon said.
“I’m a big believer in college, however, when done in unison with career and technical education, you end up with an applicant that has a much broader appeal to prospective employers,” he noted. 

Shelton agrees. “I push the tech degrees; there’s an abundance of unemployed people here with four-year degrees and the debt to match, but everyone needs electricians and tech jobs.” 

Visit http://floydatc.com/ for more information.

Christian Appalachian Project’s Operation Sharing Program partners with over 1,300 nonprofit organizations, community-based agencies, churches, and schools across all 13 Appalachian states, as well as Arkansas and Missouri, to collect and deliver donated goods throughout Appalachia. In nearly 40 years, Operation Sharing has delivered more than $2 billion worth of donated materials to more than 1.5 million people. For more information visit christianapp.org/operation-sharing.

Story by Shannon Holbrook.

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