Student employment program moves to Bowling Green

Samantha Clark

The WKU Learn and Earn program is expanding its outreach to the Bowling Green campus in order to provide jobs for traditional and nontraditional students.

The program is designed to help students find income and scholarships while meeting the employment needs of companies, according to the program’s website. Students will be placed in different businesses to work, and in return, the businesses will help pay for tuition and some scholarships.

“Learn and Earn is not a co-op, internship or work-study; however, it is an innovative approach to helping students, businesses and the entire region,” Leslie Witty, Learn and Earn project manager, said.

The Learn and Earn program has been several years in the making.

Learn and Earn was based on Metropolitan College, a “joint education-workforce-economic development initiative among the University of Louisville (U of L), Jefferson Community & Technical College (JCTC), Louisville Metro and State of Kentucky governments, and charter employer UPS,” according to the Metropolitan College website.

The Learn and Earn program is modeled after this postsecondary education and corporate partnership but on a more regional level.

A pilot Learn and Earn program was started in Barren County at WKU’s Glasgow campus in fall 2015 and has met with great success, according to Sally Ray, regional chancellor at the Glasgow extended campus. The program will expand to the Bowling Green campus in August.

“In many ways, it’s a means to an end in that it helps to pay tuition,” Ray said.

Students not only get financial help but also get more experience in the workforce and some references for future jobs.

“The Learn and Earn program has enabled me, a 41-year-old nontraditional student with a family, to pursue my dream of going back to college,” graduate student Thomas Bratcher said. “I couldn’t have remained a full-time student at WKU without the Learn and Earn program.”

To participate, students apply for the program online, interview with Learn and Earn staff and complete soft skills training before being placed into an approved pool of candidates.

As positions become available, Learn and Earn staff will recommend qualified students from the pool to business partners for interviews based on their skills, interests and experience.  Candidates will then interview for positions with that business.

“WKU’s Learn and Earn program, beginning on their Glasgow campus, is an outstanding example of the public and private sectors working collaboratively to be a part of the solution set for the region’s workforce challenge,” Dave Tatum, the executive director for the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association, said. “It is a win-win method for companies to get access to a ready pool of workers to supplement existing strained workforce resources. And at the same time, it helps those students earn much-needed money for the cost of their education regardless of their career intent.”