“I knew what I wanted to do since I was in seventh grade. One of my friends’ dad worked for KU, and I liked to hear him talk about what he did,” he says. “And I knew then that’s what I wanted to do, probably because I already knew I liked figuring out how stuff worked.”
Asbery was in BCTC’s first graduating class in 2004. From there, he went on to complete a four-year degree at Western Kentucky University. He will complete his master’s to receive an advanced degree in engineering at the University of Kentucky this year. He credits BCTC with teaching him, first off, how to learn.
“When I first came to BCTC, I couldn’t even get in until I took a couple of math classes,” he says.
Asbery thinks going directly from high school to UK would have been a bad idea for him, and he is grateful for the time and attention he received to find his focus and develop a level of maturity that has allowed him to get his thinking up from becoming an electrician to calling himself an engineer.
Asbery says he benefited greatly from the small class sizes at BCTC taught by teachers who also know a thing or two about dedication.
“When I’m in a calculus or physics class now with probably 400 other students, I wish I could take that class at BCTC. The one-on-one really makes a difference,” he says.
From having to complete two math classes before being accepted at BCTC to graduating with an associate’s degree in arts and science with a 3.75 grade-point average, Asbery found his focus there.
He kept it, too. He left Western with a 3.7 GPA and currently has a 3.7 at UK.
He is on the board now at BCTC and is a booster for the benefits of community colleges in general and BCTC in particular.
“Some parents, maybe because of having been in a fraternity or whatever, look down on community colleges, but I’d say to them to not frown upon community colleges. It’s a really good way to get a degree or to start on a degree.
Asbery works for Inter-County Energy and credits BCTC with being the place where his dedication — just like Mom wanted — turned to academics.
Cause for celebration
BCTC is celebrating 10 years since first opening its doors in Danville in 2002. Enrollment has grown from 200 to 1,602 students registered.
Trends suggest the school is riding the wave of change in the education model.
Campus Director Erin Tipton has been at the Danville campus since the beginning and calls the school her “baby.”
While there are certainly kids right out of high school, many students are not there for training as much as for re-training.
When the former Matsushita facility in Danville laid off about 400 employees in 2004, part of the compensation package was money for school. As this was not the only business with layoffs in the area, the Danville campus fairly exploded with dedicated, older students forced into a career change with BCTC as the safety net. Tipton says the average age of students at BCTC is 29.
“We serve everyone,” Tipton says. “We really are comprehensive, meeting a broad range of needs.”
Tipton has noticed an unexpected benefit of blended ages in classrooms.
“The older, non-traditional students will share their stories; it's a good reminder to the younger students to stick with it," she says.
Parking already has had to be expanded by 100 spaces, and the nursing school has outgrown the facility and expanded to Lancaster.
Even those on a career path that requires a four-or-more-year degree often see the sense in fulfilling required core classes inexpensively in a concentrated arena.
Even better, BCTC has transfer scholarships to many universities that allow students to take their associate’s degree and transfer to places such as the University of Kentucky and still pay BCTC rates.
Other scholarships are available as well.
Tipton says four-year universities court BCTC students because they trust the solid foundation the school provides.
BCTC is one of 16 colleges covering 68 campus locations in the commonwealth consolidated under the umbrella of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
KCTCS was created by the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997, with a mandate to “expand opportunities among Kentucky’s two-year public colleges.”
Now serving 90,000 students, KCTCS is the largest provider of post-secondary education in the state.
With 44 areas of study and offering not only two-year degrees but also certificate programs and training, development, and testing services to businesses, BCTC not only is fulfilling the mandate but is a streamlined vehicle that students of all ages and attitudes are choosing to take them to their dreams. Pure economics — both financial and concerning time — suggest a new model for post-secondary education that may be the one being perfected at BCTC.
Jody Lassiter, president and chief executive officer of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, recently returned after attending a conference with others who do what he does.
There, he says, he heard once again about what may be bad news for some communities but is good news indeed for Danville and one of the very reasons industry is attracted to the area — Bluegrass Community and Technical College is a constant source of a skilled workforce, something industry reports is in short supply.
Lassiter, who has been in his position for four years, acknowledges the foresight and wisdom of his predecessors who knew then what is still being discussed today by others in his field — despite the headlines of joblessness, skilled labor is a highly sought-after commodity.
Because there are more jobs than qualified applicants to meet the need, industry wants to locate in communities with a steady supply of skilled employees.
Danville offers just this because of BCTC.
“BCTC is definitely meeting the needs of industry,” he said “It’s one of the first questions new prospects ask when visiting sites,” he says.
“They want to know, ‘Do you have a local training facility’ so that is why BCTC is part of every tour.”
He calls the campus a “hidden gem on Corporate Drive” and says Tipton, the campus director, is almost a part of a recruitment team.
He cites the nursing program and programs such as welding technologies with attracting companies.