Coal employers have been saying there's a huge demand for skilled employees, for some time now. A big check was handed down Thursday to Workforce Development Funds for the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, known as EKCEP, to give miners hands on training through their "Success Express" truck.
Operators say they need miners.
"We produce probably close to one million tons a year just out of the Flintridge Operation," said Tony Osborne with ICG Flintridge Operation.
That's only one operation in East Kentucky and with a trained workforce now quickly approaching retirement age, coal operators are looking for young miners who can hit the road running. With a check for 400 thousand dollars, leaders at EKCEP say that can do just that by showing miners, like Erick Wright, how to do their job before they ever start.
"They're just like the real miners in the mines. They have the same equipment, breakers, contactors, so it's really good. You have the hands on and you don't even have to go underground to get this," Wright said.
By going through the EKCEP program, Erick Wright says he's getting several years of experience in just four months.
"There are 20 people enrolled in the class and when they complete what they've started, they'll have 100 hours in classroom and lab training," said Mable Duke, EKCEP Executive Director.
The training is paid for jointly by EKCEP, the college and the coal operators.
"If those skills are not passed on and somehow those generations or these structures aren't there to pass these skills along, then the next generation is no better than the previous generation," said Governor Ernie Fletcher.
The "Success Express" trailer will be heading out to Harlan Friday morning to train electricians underground. For more information you can log onto to the website http://www.ekcep.org/.