EKCEP awarded $7.6 million to help students explore career opportunities

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2024

High School students in Eastern Kentucky will get a jumpstart on their careers thanks to a $7.6 million award to Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP) that will support students with crucial career services and help them explore and connect with employment opportunities within their own communities.

The grant —part of an overall allocation of state funding for each of Kentucky’s local workforce development areas — will be used to expand EKCEP’s Prosper Appalachia initiative and implement an innovative new program to equip high school students with the skills and resources needed to succeed in the modern workforce. In partnership with a network of Community Action agency partners, EKCEP will place career development specialists in a number of high schools throughout its 23-county service area, providing students with direct access to valuable career services.

“This significant investment from our state government is an investment in Eastern Kentucky’s future,” said EKCEP Executive Director Becky Carnes-Miller. “With this funding, EKCEP can scale up Prosper Appalachia and ensure that more high school students in Eastern Kentucky have access to the resources and support they need to chart a successful career path without having to leave the region.”

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Prosper Appalachia is EKCEP’s comprehensive youth services program for eligible Eastern Kentuckians between the ages of 16-24. Its expansion is made possible through this new state funding and will leverage cutting-edge technology like virtual reality career exploration tools to immerse students in real-world work environments and introduce them to a wide range of career possibilities. Additionally, onsite career development specialists will provide one-on-one guidance, helping students develop personalized career plans, build essential soft skills, and connect with local employers for internships and other work-based learning opportunities.

“We know that early exposure to career options and guidance can have a profound impact on a young person’s future,” Carnes-Miller added. “Prosper Appalachia is designed to empower students to take ownership of their career journey and discover the many fulfilling opportunities available to them right here in Eastern Kentucky.”

EKCEP is partnering with its network of Community Action partners to manage career development specialists assigned to schools within the service area, ensuring that students receive support from trained professionals who are deeply rooted in their own communities. As a member in the Appalachian Cradle to Career network, EKCEP can also leverage partnerships with Partners for Rural Impact and other organizations to ensure students have access to opportunities in Eastern Kentucky.

“We are very thankful for our partners throughout the region, and a key component of this initiative is to help students discover fulfilling career paths right here at home,” said Carnes-Miller. “We want to connect young people with real opportunities, but also show them that they don’t have to leave Eastern Kentucky to find rewarding work and build a successful future.”

The $7.6 million investment in Eastern Kentucky is part of a larger statewide initiative aimed at strengthening workforce development efforts for young Kentuckians. This funding was made possible following a combined request from Kentucky’s 10 workforce development boards and underscores the state’s commitment to preparing the next generation of workers for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century economy.

“We are thrilled to be part of this statewide effort to empower our youth,” added Carnes-Miller. “We are grateful to our state legislature and to the governor’s office for recognizing the importance of preparing our high school students for professional lives after graduation.”


EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides an array of workforce development services and operates the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, which provide access to more than a dozen state and federal programs that offer employment and training assistance for jobseekers and employers all under one roof. Learn more about us at http://www.ekcep.org, http://www.jobsight.org and http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.