An examination of economic development and workforce training “post-COVID” is the subject of a virtual symposium planned next week conducted by West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

“Re-tooling Post COVID” will be held virtually from 9-11:30 a.m. April 15. The event is free and open to the public. To register, email or call Tina Clark, 270-534-3821, or tina.clark@kctcs.edu.

“I was strategic in naming it ‘re-tooling’ and not ‘re-starting,’ ” said Kevin O’Neill, WKCTC vice president, regional workforce training and economic development.

“Many people did not stop (during COVID), many businesses did not stop. There are business sectors out there that didn’t miss a beat, the marine industry is one example.”

The main focus will be the importance of working regionally with regard to economic development and workforce training. Topics include the role of economic development, the role of chambers of commerce, and the value of apprenticeships. Keynote speakers include Matt Tackett, president/CEO of the Kentucky Association of Economic Development, and Kate Shanks, vice president public affairs, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Planned panel discussions will feature local economic development leaders, area chamber of commerce presidents and local state legislators.

Last year’s planned event was canceled due to COVID-19. According to O’Neill, conducting this year’s event virtually does have some positives.

For one thing, people that would normally not be readily available, because of their travel schedules and other things, can participate.

“They can participate from home or anywhere they’ve got a good internet connection and a camera. One of the big things that I’ve noticed this last year is my meetings, honestly, have increased, because we have such functionality or flexibility to call meetings. It can be a huge cost savings,” he said.

O’Neill expects a good turnout.

“We’ve invited all the business contacts that we have, and those would include HR, plant managers, people with those-type roles within companies. But we’ve also invited county leaders and the magistrates and mayors,” he said.

“And, the chambers play a vital role coming alongside economic development professionals. We’re all in this together.”

The symposium will be a learning opportunity for anyone involved, according to O’Neill.

“I always say if you come away with one nugget of information that you’ve never thought of before and say ‘I’m gong to try this or implement this,’ to me, it’s a win.”

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