Coal Industry Officials Working To Fill Gap Of Retiring Coal Miners

Coal industry officials predict half of the area's coal miners will retire in the next five to seven years, and say there are not many people to replace them. Coal officials are trying to fill that gap.

Justin May may still be in high school, but he's just who coal industry officials are targeting to join their workforce in a few years.

"I liked it, that's what I've been wanting to do, coal mining," May said.

"We hope that will be the future of the mining industry," said Bill Higginbotham with the Kentucky Coal Academy.

Mining officials say 50 years is the average age of Kentucky's 16 thousand coal miners. They predict most will start retiring soon, but say there are not enough people to replace them in the workforce.

They held a career fair for high school students and showed them just how different the field is now.

"Young people are interested in technology and this is high technology," said Higginbotham.

And talked money, 50 thousand dollars a year starting salary.

"It's the best money around here. It's what I think a lot of people go in to do," said Matt Mills.

They hope their efforts help students start preparing now.

Mining officials hope hands on training simulators will help students go from the classroom straight to work.

"When they actually get a job and can get on that truck and operate it, they're already very familiar with it," Higginbotham said.

"I like it. It seems to be easier to learn that way," May said.

Mining officials’ hopes that will help replace the retiring workers quicker.

Career fair organizers say about 400 students attended Friday's event.

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