The Paintsville Independent School District finalized a partnership with Hazard Community and Technical College last week that would add a course to the district’s curriculum that would certify students as drone pilots, according to Superintendent David Gibson.
“This is several partnerships that are working together,” Gibson said. “We’ve got some really good stuff going on … we have partnered with Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges, (HCTC), in particular, has a drone pilot’s associates degree with an industry certification in that. We agreed to a partnership last week and we will be one of, if not the first, high school in the state of Kentucky that will have a pathway for dual-credit for a drone licensure. So, these kids will have the capability, if they choose, to go and take these classes and be able to fly drones as soon as they leave our high school and the program.”
The program through HCTC is called unmanned systems technology, and through a partnership with USA Drone Port, offers four certifications related to drones, including remote drone pilot, first responder specialist, unmanned systems technology and geographic information system unmanned systems specialist.
Gibson said this pathway was one part of a larger push within the district to offer career and technical pathways for students who might not be interested in post-secondary degrees.
“We’re real excited about that. We’ve been working with the Department of Education to make sure everything is in line and they’re real excited about it,” Gibson said. “This is the type of thing that Paintsville schools have been working towards for the past couple of years, is to be able to give more pathways into the careers that we think are going to be crucial to our area.”
Gibson said the opportunities for a certified drone pilot are numerous and diverse.
“You can do surveying, you can do logging, programming, obviously they’re going to be able to fly any type of drone that’s out there, there’s a lot of application in aeronautics, lifting, moving things, firefighting, emergency personnel,” Gibson said. “It’s amazing what there is offered there, because there’s so much of it. We really don’t know, this is like the tip of the iceberg on what they’re going to be able to do. What it’s allowing our partners to do is to create a workforce here that … if someone wants to come in and do some of these businesses, our kids are going to have those credentials. This is also an economic development program. They’re a key piece of technology.”
Gibson said the partnership was also made possible by the school’s partnership with Big Sandy Community and Technical College, with which the district is working to create a robotics program.
“So these are the types of things that we’re trying to create for our students here at Paintsville Independent. There’s a changing economy in our area, and we’ve got to develop the skills here at this level for them to be able to go to work as soon as they can get out of school,” Gibson said. “We’re going to continue our rich history of producing doctors and lawyers and things of that nature, our pre-college pathway is one of the best, if not the best, in the state, so we’re going to continue that. We’re also going to open up more doors for more kids. That’s the exciting thing about this.”
Gibson said the program is about growth.
“We’re very proud of that and these steps that we’re taking are about making sure that that growth is still there,” Gibson said. “When kids realize that they can come to us and get a drone credential, or they can get some type of engineering or robotics credential that we’re working towards, why wouldn’t they want to be with us?”