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New KCTCS President Ryan Quarles addresses hopes for the future

Ryan Quarles

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System has officially inducted its newest president, former Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles.

Quarles began his new position at the first of the year and said he’s already making plans and taking steps to improve KCTCS.

The new community and technical college leader said he wants to have a serious conversation about owning workforce development space in the Commonwealth.

“I want to make sure that we maintain an eye towards affordability and accessibility, and that we also put more emphasis on our technical programs because the Kentucky that I know is one that is begging for employees who have the ability to work with their hands. Skill trade, electricians, welders, mechanics,” said Quarles.

Quarles said there is a bright spot this legislative session with funding for the TRAINS program. It allows companies to train, retain, and upskill more Kentucky workers. He also highlighted the importance of funding the Work Ready Scholarship which pays tuition remainders under $400 for students.

Another focus going forward is the restructuring of some KCTCS protocols after an audit last year found some financial controls and management issues. Quarles said part of that will be an outside-in look at the system.

Quarles said much of his current focus is centered around the distribution of funds, after the State Auditor’s office released findings that KCTCS had a lack of transparency & overcharged individual colleges by an estimated $24 million.

Quarles said he wants the money to be properly delegated to where it is needed most, funding the organizations’ technical programs.

The new president said his next plan is to begin “futureproofing” KCTCS programs.

“What does that mean? Well, we know there’s major battery plants being built, so we need to make sure that our programs reflect what these new industries are going to demand. Another one is not just looking at utility line men and women, but looking at fiber optics, and telecommunications as well. So, we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on that.”

Quarles takes over at KCTCS during the current legislative session in Frankfort. He said funding for the schools’ workforce development initiatives is crucial moving forward.