Students in the inaugural class of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s Greater Knox Coding Academy gained valuable insights from area defense contractors in an online meeting.

The virtual round table discussion connected employers with students participating in the 18-week intensive course to become certified information technology professionals.

Launched in February, the program is designed to provide a pipeline of potential employees who possess the skills and industry certifications needed by Fort Knox contractors, specifically in Java and Security Plus.

The students had been meeting in a dedicated computer lab at ECTC, but moved to online instruction in March because of coronavirus restrictions.

The college worked with its partners at the Knox Regional Development Alliance to arrange the online meeting.

“When the coronavirus forced us to move the academy to online instruction, these students remained committed and forged ahead,” ECTC’s President Juston Pate said in a news release. “We were following our students’ example and didn’t let the current environment stop us from making this important first connection between them and prospective employers. The dialogue was fantastic.”

Chase Cole, a student in the coding academy and a senior at North Hardin High School, asked the employers about their companies’ values and shared his thoughts on the type of job he is seeking when he graduates, according to the release.

“Hearing first-hand from these employers was really helpful,” Cole said. “They provided great advice on what an average day might be like, how to keep and hone my skills and how to be successful in this line of work.”

Local defense contractor North South Consulting’s CEO Krista Stevens was one of five employers who participated. Stevens has advised ECTC and the development alliance on the challenges she and other defense contractors face in filling vacancies with local talent.

“The opportunity ECTC has created for them while providing companies like ours with access to skilled workers is fantastic,” Stevens said. “We have a real demand for this type of IT talent and given the Army’s growing use of technology, that need can only continue to increase.”

KRDA CEO Jim Iacocca offered his praise for the students, the employers andthe college.

“Decision makers in the Department of Defense definitely have to consider available workforce when they are determining where to locate missions,” said Iacocca, a retired brigadier general.

“The Greater Knox Coding Academy demonstrates that our community will step up and respond to workforce needs.”

ECTC plans to offer the academy again starting in August. Registration is open for that session at elizabethtown.kctcs.edu/coding academy.

Admission to the program is selective and highly competitive, according to ECTC.

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