Manufacturing comes to coal country

2 Oct 2017

manufacturing in coal country

Kentucky’s coal country has been hard hit by the changing energy industry.

Since the early 2000s, Eastern Kentucky has seen its coal employment plummet from about 13,700 jobs to about 3,700—a decline of nearly 73 percent. Statewide, jobs in the coal industry dropped to the lowest in 120 years, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

But out of the ashes of the state’s coal industry is emerging new hope for an economic boom. It turns out that the skill set of these unemployed coal miners closely matches those required for many advanced manufacturing industries like aerospace and automotive.

Coal miners, after all, not only operate heavy equipment, but also manage complex electrical systems and possess strong math and engineering skills—all key aptitudes for functioning on today’s high-tech manufacturing line.

As a result, unemployed coal miners are excelling in training programs designed to repurpose their abilities in new industries.

One example: eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute, a specialized training program designed to increase the existing skills of former coal workers for advanced manufacturing jobs. Trainees learn Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining—running the highly technical computers that operate lathes, routers, grinders, and other machines that build high-precision parts for the US manufacturing industry.

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