The labor market in Kentucky is expected to open up quite a bit over the next several years, with more than 80 percent of employers reporting strong job growth projections in a 2017 statewide survey. The catch is that many of those upcoming positions are in skilled labor occupations, and the vast majority of Kentucky employers have reported difficulty in finding appropriately skilled candidates to fill them.
The right trade school training program can help you qualify for many of the skilled jobs coming available, such as potential carpentry and construction positions in Bowling Green — the state's fastest-growing city — or licensed practical nursing jobs in the areas around Lexington and Owensboro, where the average salary in those careers is around 10 percent more than the statewide average.
Why is Kentucky Good for Vocational/Career Schools?
Career technical education (CTE) in construction, nursing and other fields can be a great way to speed your entry into the workforce. Programs that lead to technical certificates can often be completed in less than a year of full-time study, getting you career-ready in around one-fourth of the time that it takes to finish a full bachelor's degree.
Not only that, but CTE certification in Kentucky can be easier on your wallet than a university education. The average student paid just over $5,300 for a full year of tuition and fees at two-year community colleges and trade schools in Kentucky in 2018, while university student expenses averaged more than $10,700 — more than double the vocational school cost — the same year.
If a training program from one of the campus-based or online trade schools in Kentucky sounds like the right move for you, check out our rankings list of the state's top two-year institutions below. Stay tuned after the list, as well, for info about state initiatives designed to make vocational education more accessible and some tips on how to apply for financial aid in Kentucky.
Highest-Paying and Fastest-Growing Careers in Kentucky
How to Apply for Trade School Financial Aid in Kentucky
Cost tends to be one of the biggest factors for prospective students of career and technical schools in Kentucky, but there's more financial aid available for trade school students than you might think. Not only can you qualify for grants and loans at the federal level, but student aid programs from state, institutional and private sources are also available to help shoulder the cost burden.
Anyone applying for financial aid in Kentucky should definitely be familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA helps aid agencies determine your financial need, which is used as part of the eligibility criteria for all federal programs and most at the state and institutional level. Check out our financial aid guide for more detailed information about the FAFSA and other general tips about how to manage your student aid.
Here's a little detail on a few Kentucky scholarships that might be available to students at trade and vocational schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS):
- KCTCS Presidential Scholarship - Students who hold a minimum GPA of 3.0 and demonstrate adequate financial need can qualify for up to $1,500 each semester through this institution-level program.
- KCTCS Commonwealth Scholarship - Kentucky residents with a record of high academic achievement in high school, represented by an ACT score of 24 or higher and a GPA above 3.49, can qualify for up to $3,000 per year.
- Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship- This program provides GPA-linked awards of between $125 and $500 per year and includes bonuses for eligible students who scored well on college placement tests and qualifying high school exams.
Initiatives for Vocational School Students in Kentucky
Policymakers and legislators in Kentucky have put in place a range of initiatives designed to help state residents get the training they need and find the job they want. Here are a few such initiatives that students, graduates or employers can take advantage of:
Funding for vocational students in Kentucky
- The 15 to Finish Scholarship is an aid program that provides students who take at least 15 credit hours in a semester with a $500 award applied to their next enrolled semester.
- College Access Program Grants, available through the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA), can award up to $2,000 for Kentucky residents enrolled at least half time in programs that last two years or more.
Kentucky policies that benefit vocational students
- KCTCS-TRAINS is an initiative that provides existing Kentucky companies and those hoping to move to the state with financial support to offset workforce training expenses.
- A KCTCS partnership known as Ready to Work (RTW)provides working low-income parents with support, mentoring services, work study opportunities, chid care assistance and more while they go to school.
School-specific program initiatives in Kentucky
- The BCTC Alliance Annual Scholarship at Bluegrass Community and Technical College provides college funding to a student who demonstrates financial need or who is involved in the LGBTQ* Alliance student organization.
- The Anne Biven Nursing Textbook Fundhelps Associate Degree of Nursing (A.D.N.) students at Jefferson Community and Technical College by providing assistance with the cost of textbooks for one semester.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Kentucky
- Check out the Kentucky Community and Technical College System site for information and resources about CTE certification in Kentucky.
- The Kentucky Department of Education has information about knowledge areas and program standards for the CTE school-to-work pipeline.
- Career and technical schools in Kentucky, as well as the programs they offer, can be accredited by independent industry groups to show that they meet or exceed a national set of educational standards. Institutional accreditation for KCTCS schools comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), while program accreditation is awarded by groups like the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation(NATEF).
- Kentucky's page on Advance CTE has some stats and other data about trade school training in the state, as well, and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) can clue you in to national CTE initiatives and provide other helpful information.