est Kentucky Community and Technical College's Inland Logistics & Marine Institute is well-positioned - figuratively and literally - to serve the changing needs of the river industry.
With its proximity to the numerous marine companies that have a Paducah riverfront presence, and its state-of-the-art facilities and degree programs that include online learning opportunities, the ILMI helps ensure the river industry's access to a qualified workforce.
WKCTC has offered associate degrees in marine technology and logistics and operations management online for several years, but a U.S. Department of Labor grant in 2013 allowed it to further develop its programs and renovate the institute, an 8,000-square-foot facility at 631 Marine Way near downtown Paducah.
The renovated facility, which features a radar lab, diesel lab and video lab, has been in operation a little over a year.
"We've gotten a lot more visibility in the community," said Troy Courtney, ILMI director.
In addition to degree programs offered online, the ILMI serves the industry through specialized workforce training.
"The goal of our programs is to provide students with the education and training needed to make them successful in their chosen fields and ensure what we provide is what the industry needs to continue its growth and success," Courtney said. "That grant (also) gave us the ability to invest more in our programs, and to make our programs a little more engaging to the student with a lot more video content and 3-D modeling."
WKCTC offers two-year associate in applied science degrees with four tracks: wheelhouse management, marine engineering, marine logistics operations, and marine culinary, as well as certificates in marine technology business, marine industry and marine culinary.
An associate of applied science in logistics and operations management is also offered, along with certificates in international logistics, logistics management, logistics technology and supply chain management.
College degrees on the logistics side of the business are relatively new in the maritime industry, Courtney said.
"Previously, whoever is in charge of the supply chain and transportation (may have) migrated to that position," he said. "They may have a degree in marketing, but somehow they've landed in the logistics/transportation supply side of the business.
"It's (supply chain and logistics degree) gaining more popularity and a lot more acceptance. It's getting more and more common ... it's a business degree with an emphasis on transportation."
WKCTC has an articulation agreement with Murray State University, "so our two-year degree matches up with their four-year degree. So we can transfer (students) directly into their four-year degree," Courtney said.
While there is an emphasis on serving marine companies with a local presence, the entire industry benefits, Courtney said.
"In the marine industry, people live all over the country," he said. "Keep in mind they are on 28 days and off 28 days. Those 28 days off they could be anywhere. We've done a really good job of marketing our programs nationally. We're reaching out well beyond the local area."
The institute is also well-positioned to take advantage of some changes coming in transportation and distribution, Courtney said.
"The timing of having our center here right now is good, not just for the inland river transportation system, but for distribution and transportation in general," he said. "There's two things happening - the I-69 corridor and the Panama Canal expansion - and we sit here very strategically to benefit."