eKAMI Breaks Ground on Training Center at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Facility

eKAMI is offering inmates opportunities to learn skills around robotics and advanced manufacturing to help them find careers upon release.


The eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute is devoted to workforce development.
eKAMI, or the Eastern Kentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute, will offer training and certification in robotics, metalworking, and other skills at Kentucky's largest correctional facility.

Many people in prison need to learn skills they can use when they re-enter society. Robotics can provide one path away from recidivism. This week, the Eastern Kentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute, or eKAMI, broke ground on its second workforce development training center. It will be on the grounds of the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, the state's largest correctional facility.

In recognition of National Second Chance Month, eKAMI said the new training center in Morgan County will help incarcerated individuals learn high-tech manufacturing skills.

“Providing inmates who are re-entering society with the tools needed to succeed is a good investment for Kentucky,” said Kerry Harvey, cabinet secretary for justice and public safety, at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Bringing the eKAMI program to EKCC will be a great step forward in rebuilding lives and families. This is precisely the kind of program that will reduce recidivism, thereby making our communities safer.”

Kentucky fights crime with education

In 2020, Kentucky’s recidivism rate was 41%, with parole violators making up 60% of new prison entries, said eKAMI. Research has shown that inmates who receive a GED while in prison are 30% less likely to return to prison than their peers, and those who take advantage of vocational training have a 28% higher chance of finding employment upon re-entry than those who do not.

When former inmates find employment, they are 32% less likely to be arrested for a subsequent crime than those who struggle to land a job. This shows that when people have the proper tools upon re-entering society, they can be more successful.

Students enrolled in eKAMI's program will receive hands-on training in computer numerical control (CNC) machining and robotics, earn credentials from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills, and be able to obtain certificates from leading robotics hardware and software providers. Workers with such skills, credentials, and certifications are in high demand, noted eKAMI.

Upon completion of the program, students will be qualified to earn wages starting at about $20 per hour, plus full benefits, said the organization.

“As our state builds on the economic momentum, we are experiencing by making game-changing investments in infrastructure like eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute, we are building a better Kentucky,” said Gov. Andy Beshear at the groundbreaking ceremony. “A better Kentucky that ensures every region and individual in Kentucky sees economic prosperity, including those who need a second chance.”

eKAMI students learn on the latest robots

Paintsville, Ky.-based eKAMI last year announced $3 million in funding for its second facility. The institute has already had success retraining former coal miners and has been reaching out to high school students. Its Robotics Center has 40,000 sq. ft. of workspace offering a five-month accelerated program for adults and a 10-month program for young adults.

eKAMI also provides opportunities for trainees to work with technologies and mentors from supporters including FedEx, OhmniLabs, READY Robotics, and Teradyne (owner of Universal Robots, Mobile Industrial Robots, and AutoGuide Mobile Robots).

Students can learn to use control software, collaborative robots, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), and telepresence systems.

“Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex is extremely proud and excited to partner with such a great organization as eKAMI,” said David Green, warden of the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex. “This will be a game-changer for the incarcerated individuals who complete this program. It checks all the boxes to help them overcome the major struggles of re-entering society after release: job, housing and transportation.”

“By upskilling these individuals, not only are we breaking the cycle of returning to prison, but [we're] also creating a workforce that is ready for the new 21st century jobs,” wrote Aaron Prather, senior technical advisor at FedEx Express, in a LinkedIn post.

During this episode of Mavens of Manufacturing, Meaghan Ziemba sits down with eKAMI CEO, Kathy Walker, and discuss: • How to expose high school students to this new era of manufacturing. • What a learning experience looks like at eKAMI. • Some of the technology and processes eKAMI particpants learn and are exposed to.

About the Author

Eugene Demaitre's avatar
Eugene Demaitre
Eugene Demaitre was editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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The eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute is devoted to workforce development.

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