Owensboro Community & Technical College, in partnership with Hancock County Public Schools, will unveil three new innovation labs designed to meet education and training needs for regional workforce, industry and secondary partners on Monday at the Hancock County Center and Annex.

The innovation labs, part of a $2.85 million Kentucky's Work Ready Skills Initiative, include information technology, virtual welding and industrial maintenance technology labs that will be fitted with equipment that is mobile in order to ensure adaptability and maximum use of space.

"This partnership focuses on expanding the options for secondary students and with the mobility and adaptability of the space," said OCTC President Scott Williams, "making it ideal to expand our incumbent worker training for our industry partners."

OCTC unveiled its first multifaceted innovation lab at its downtown Owensboro campus in early January. The Festo Cyber Physical Smart Factory simulator is the centerpiece. The $750,000 smart factory simulator includes integrated logistics, communication, mechatronics, robotic assembly and troubleshooting capabilities. The first phase also included a state-of-the-art Cyber Innovation Lab at the downtown campus that will be opened in the fall.

Specific new equipment for the project includes level and flow trainers, thermal instrument trainers, vibration analysis and thermal imaging maintenance trainers and software for specialized training.

Partnerships with school districts like HCPS and Owensboro Public Schools are part of the community college's unique mission, said Director of Public Relations Bernie Hale. At the Hancock center, for example, she said, staff will provide a welding center almost exclusively for high school students, delivering hard-skills curricula both to the existing workforce and a developing one.

"That's one of the beauties of these partnerships," she said. "They benefit entire communities."

Hancock County's relationship with the aluminum industry is a major economic driver, said HCPS Superintendent Kyle Estes. It provides a lot for area residents, but it needs a ready and willing workforce, too. Schools in the area have a responsibility to help open up industrial opportunities for their students, and that's only possible with the proper education.

"The idea is that we generally provide the space and OCTC provides the manpower and training," he said. "That's an invaluable partnership. The center serves our students and community members at large and workforce needs of industry leaders. When you’re a small district like ours, you have to look at ways to adapt to the challenges you face. This is how you do that."

Monday's unveiling celebration will kick at noon at the Hancock County Center and Annex, 8090 U.S. 60 in Lewisport. It is free and open to the public.

Austin Ramsey, 270-691-7302, aramsey@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @austinrramsey

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