Owensboro Community & Technical College will be expanding the number of internships the college offers its students, with a $2.091 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie's office announced Wednesday OCTC received the grant, which has a goal of increasing the number of students who participate in the college's experiential education program, E3@OCTC, and also increase the number of academic programs that offer some form of internship experience.

"For instance, we want to go from 35% of our programs offering some kind of learning work experience," Scott Williams, OCTC's president, said Wednesday. "We want that to be in the 65% range."

The funds are through the federal education department's "Strengthening Institutions" grant program.

Williams said giving students experience working in their field, either off-campus or with an on-campus department, has academic benefits.

"One reason why that's so important is we know students persist in college; they are more successful in completing and they have a better depth of learning when they can relate their academic experience to work," Williams said.

Internships also "better prepare students for the workforce," Williams said.

"It's not new to higher education. We do have those and have students that take advantage of them," Williams said. The grant "allows us to expand both on-campus and off-campus" internship opportunities, he said.

Guthrie's office could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

In a press release, Guthrie said, “I am proud to announce that OCTC has received this competitive grant to expand its E3@OCTC program. Every student learns differently, and experiential learning opportunities give students the chance to get out of the classroom and learn in a new way. This grant is a great opportunity for OCTC to help Kentucky students learn, and I look forward to seeing the results of the expanded E3@OCTC program."

Williams said the funds will be used to track all students who have an internship, making sure the students are complying with the requirements of the internship. OCTC officials will also track the organization providing the experience and keep data on students' success in their internships.

The funds will also be used to promote the program to students and to recruit organizations that could provide internships, Williams said. The program does have a goal of having 60% of students participating in an internship over five years. Currently, 24% of OCTC students take part in some kind of internship.

Williams said he would like to have the majority of the college's academic programs offering internships.

"Personally, I'd like to see all our programs have that," Williams said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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