Accelerating N. Ky. teens: Scholarship competition sows seeds for homegrown manufacuturing startups

NEWPORT, Ky. - Students at the Kenton County Academies of Innovation and Technology have the chance to jumpstart their futures through a scholarship competition that aims to fuel innovation.

Tuesday night, sophomores and juniors will compete for scholarships to earn college credit from Gateway Technical and Community College. Six teams will present projects they conceived and developed during the school year.

Francis O'Hara, director of the Academies, said the college credit is an incentive like no other.  

"We realized that this would be a great opportunity," O'Hara said. "Instead of some type of present, what better reward than a financial scholarship?"

UpTech, the new business informatics accelerator for Northern Kentucky, partnered with the Northern Kentucky ezone to launch the scholarship program, dubbed mUpTech. UpTech co-founder Casey Barach said he and his colleagues saw the need for educated, skilled workers to fill advanced manufacturing jobs in Northern Kentucky.  

"These jobs are technical in nature, they're computerized, and they are great technical jobs for folks who like to be creative, use their hands," Barach said. "And they pay really well."

The two winning mUpTech teams will receive:

  • tuition for up to 24 credit hours at Gateway, which they will earn in high school
  • reimbursement for book costs
  • startup counseling from the Northern Kentucky ezone, a support system for local entrepreneurs 
  • entrepreneur-focused legal consultation from the firm of Graydon Head

Barach said the focus of mUpTech is to grow Northern Kentucky's manufacturing industry by focusing on image, innovation and workforce development.

"Over the last 12 years, over 300 companies have used the ezone, only three were in the manufacturing industry," Barach said. "These are great jobs, but kids think it's dirty and dusty. And who wants to work there?"

Northern Kentucky is home to companies like Toyota, Mazak and other large advanced manufacturers.  

O'Hara said the mUpTech initiative includes field trips to local companies and lessons about work ethic and the value of higher education.

"It's opened the students' eyes about what it takes to go to the next level," he said. "They now understand what an associate degree is, what a bachelor's degree is. How much college is worth."

About the mUpTech event:

  • Tues., May 7 at 7 p.m.
  • Gateway Community and Technical College Center for Advanced Manufacturing, Park Hills (see map)

More about mUpTech partners:

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