Through an initiative recently announced, McLean County employees will be able to work while also building their academic résumé.

According to a press release from the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) released Sept. 13, nearly every city and county employee in Kentucky is now eligible to receive a 30% tuition discount, free books for undergraduates and a locked-in tuition rate for two years at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) through an agreement with KACo and the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC).

With a three-year memorandum of understanding, this is the largest corporate or nonprofit partnership in EKU’s history.

Curtis Dame, McLean County judge-executive, is thrilled with the news.

“I’m really excited about it,” Dame said. “Once I saw it and heard about it, I said ‘I gotta get this out.’ ”

Dame said that he has an appreciation for this program based on his previous experience working in the higher education sector.

“With my history, before I became judge-executive, in the post-secondary educational realm of work, having worked for the University of Kentucky, I learned the value quickly that if you invest in your employees … and make that professional development for your employees, not only do you help them further their careers and themselves, but you also further the capabilities of your entity,” Dame said. “This program … is a prime example of where we can leverage being part of a larger group to bring these types of benefits home to our McLean County employees.”

Dame said there is a similar program involving EKU and the county police force, in which dispatchers and police officers are sent to the university’s emergency training program.

Dame notes that the new program will help employees gain skills and move up the ladder in their respective career fields, even if that means them moving on from the county.

“If it will afford us the opportunity to develop that professional development pipeline for our employees, I think that’s how we leave employees with something gained, more than just a salary and benefits,” Dame said. “We’ve seen that, at times, the county can be a transitional job to help people get experience, and you can’t fault someone for bettering themselves.

“I don’t want to lose anybody. But if it means we helped them further their professional career, I feel like we’ve done what we needed to not only take care of our facilities and our county infrastructure, but our employees are our most important asset. They are our most valuable resource.”

Employees can already sign up for the courses for the Fall 2021 semester “B” term. Dame said that he is looking into the digital and distance learning opportunities for employees and considering the idea of allowing employees time for professional development.

“We do that currently with our road department employees,” Dame said. “We send them to certifications for pesticides application …. They go through that training — that’s on the job specific training. But this could take it one step further from being more than just a requirement for the job but also to help them learn a new skill ….”

Interested parties can fill out an application at https://kaco.org/continuing-education/eku-advantage/ or contact Benton Shirey at 859-622-2264 or benton.shirey@eku.edu for more information.

Dame is also available to answer questions for anybody who needs assistance.

“I would go as far as to say that I will help (someone) fill out an application personally,” Dame said. “I’ve been down that road.

“There’s one thing in life that you can’t lose, and that’s education.”

Freddie Bourne, fbourne@mcleannews.com

Freddie Bourne, fbourne@mcleannews.com

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