‘I’m raving about this PD’: Local teachers praise Bus to Biz training opportunity

Educators learn about local careers in tourism, agriculture, distribution and electrical line maintenance
SOMERSET, KENTUCKY (October 9, 2023) — Meece Middle and Somerset High School educators started the 2023-24 school year equipped with knowledge about what career pathways exist locally for students thanks to Bus to Biz, a professional development program created by the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) and the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce.

Dubbed as a field trip for teachers, Bus to Biz is what the name implies — SPEDA and the Chamber plan an outing for educators to visit local industries by way of the district’s yellow school buses. The program ensures teachers are aware of the community’s workforce needs so they can appropriately guide students who may be interested in those careers. 

This was the third such Bus to Biz outing, which counts as a professional development day. Both the Pulaski County and Somerset Independent school districts have now participated in the program.
“Bus to Biz brings immeasurable value to the local economy and can truly be life-changing for our students,” said Chris Girdler, SPEDA president and CEO. “Even if we just reach one student, just one, who doesn’t understand or believe there is a career for them here in Somerset-Pulaski County, we’ve changed the trajectory of that student’s life, we’ve improved our workforce, and those actions will create a snowball effect for future economic growth as that student builds a life here. That’s what this program is all about.”

The program’s impact will also reverberate through the business community, said Bobby Clue, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce.

“Not only are we changing the narrative for students through the Bus to Biz program, but we’re also setting our local businesses up for success by ensuring there is a workforce here to support them and help their business thrive,” Clue said. “And we’re opening the door of communication between our educators and our business and industrial leaders so that this relationship — and our local economy — can only get stronger.”

On this trip, roughly 75 Somerset Independent Schools teachers visited Team Modern, AppHarvest (currently sale pending to Bosch Growers) and the Somerset Community College Lineman Training Center in eastern Pulaski County on Aug. 8 before returning to downtown Somerset for lunch at The Virginia and a presentation from Lake Cumberland Tourism Executive Director Michelle Allen on the importance of tourism to the local economy.

And by all accounts, the teachers who participated had an excellent experience: an overwhelming majority agreed the program was beneficial when completing a post-trip evaluation.
“I’m raving about this PD,” one educator wrote in the comments. “I looked forward to it instead of dreading it. Very applicable to helping our students succeed.”

Another talked about the applicable benefits to students.

“I really enjoyed seeing, touring and learning the inner workings of the different businesses. This is real-world experience that we can use to better prepare students for these types of careers.”

Somerset Independent Schools Superintendent Kyle Lively said he is grateful to SPEDA and the Chamber for providing such a beneficial learning experience to faculty and staff.

“The Bus to Biz professional development provides Somerset’s teachers, support staff, and administrators unique insight that enables them to better connect students to potential employers and/or career pathways right here in our community,” Lively said. “It’s a great tool to potentially to boost our local workforce and also help ensure that all Somerset graduates are successful citizens.”

Cindy Ham, coordinator of federal programs and district assessment instruction supervisor, agreed.
“Our teachers are very fortunate to have been able to experience the Bus to Biz professional learning experience,” Ham said. “Teachers can see first-hand what skills their students need when they leave as a graduate. Chris Girdler and the SPEDA team made an informational and engaging day.”
Girdler said he appreciates the Somerset Independent district’s immediate buy-in for the Bus to Biz program.

“I am grateful to Cindy Ham and Kyle Lively for their recognition of the importance of connecting local educators to the industrial community,” Girdler said, “and for the leadership of all of those who facilitated tours. Bus to Biz is a program that can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in Somerset-Pulaski County, and these folks are committed to making it happen. For that, I say thank you.”