Elizabethtown Community and Tech­nical College now is accepting applications for the Greater Knox Cod­ing Academy. The first-of-its-kind program at ECTC train peoples to be certified information technology professionals with skills that are in high demand from area defense contractors that support Fort Knox, according to college officials.

The first cohort will begin training in February.

ECTC President Juston Pate said the program was developed after retired Brig. Gen. Jim Iacocca, the chief executive officer of Knox Regional Development Alliance, shared news of the challenges defense contractors face in finding certified IT talent locally for critical missions at Fort Knox.

Many of the vacant positions have starting salaries as high as $65,000 per year.

“We knew we needed to develop a solution because supporting Fort Knox, our region’s largest employer, is paramount and doing so provides opportunities for people right here in our region. It is a win-win,” Pate said. “We know we have the talent locally to fill the vacancies, they just need the right training.”

Graduates of the 17-week program will be prepared to test for certification in CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ and as an Oracle Java SE 8 Certified Junior Associate.

“These are certifications the contractors specifically identified for us,” said ECTC’s Steve Bratcher, Coding Academy coordinator.

Bratcher said admission to the program is selective and highly competitive. People ages 17 and older are eligible to apply, including high school seniors. After conferring with area school superintendents, ECTC intentionally chose the February start date so seniors could complete the course in conjunction with their graduation.

All applicants are required to take three aptitude tests, pass a background check and participate in an interview to be considered for the academy. The aptitude tests can all be taken at ECTC’s testing center. Each test takes approximately one hour.

“This is a very demanding course and the certification tests are extremely difficult,” Bratcher said. “We have developed a program to give participants the best chance of passing. The application process is designed to select candidates who are well positioned to succeed in our program.”

Bratcher said the background check is designed to eliminate people with a criminal history who would have a challenging time receiving security clearance required for jobs on the military installation.

Bratcher said the college plans to offer the course two additional times in 2020 but the cost almost certainly will increase. Offered through the college’s Workforce Solutions department, it does not qualify for most traditional forms of financial aid.

“Testing for the certifications alone costs more than $2,500,” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity for students willing to dedicate the time to the course.”

The class will run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon­day through Friday and lunch is provided.

Iacocca touted ECTC’s leadership and responsiveness. When decision makers at the Department of Defense are looking at where to add missions, among the many things considered, he said, is whether the community is supportive and has a skilled workforce.

“The Greater Knox Coding Academy is yet another example of how time and again this community steps up and supports Fort Knox,” Iacocca said. “ECTC epitomizes the words community partner.”

While the academy is designed in response to Fort Knox workforce needs, Pate said coding skills academy graduates will acquire knowledge also in demand by several of the region’s employers.

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