Carl D. Perkins Vocational Training Center Celebrates 50 years of Service to Kentuckians with Disabilities

Vocational rehabilitation center in Eastern Kentucky has assisted more than 50,000 people with education, employment, independence

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 14, 2023) — The Carl D. Perkins Vocational Training Center in Johnson County celebrated its 50th anniversary of helping Kentuckians with severe disabilities gain employment and independence with a celebration on Sept. 14 at the center.

"Congratulations to the Perkins Center on 50 years of helping more Kentuckians lead fulfilling and independent lives," said Gov. Andy Beshear. "I want to thank the dedicated team members who have helped more than 50,000 of our people over the years. Through their efforts, more of our fellow Kentuckians have been able to pursue their dreams."

The center serves individuals with many types of disabilities including learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, traumatic brain injury, intellectual disability, deaf/hard of hearing, and physical disabilities. It currently operates several programs such as physical, occupational, and speech therapies, and the Lifeskills Enhancement Program. The center is in the Education and Labor Cabinet's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

"I am so proud of the work and dedication of the Perkins Center staff and the student success that has been achieved through hard work and perseverance over the past 50 years," said Education and Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link. "Every Kentuckian who wants a career deserves a pathway to success regardless of their disabilities. Our workforce is so much better when everyone gets an opportunity to contribute their skills and talents."

The center can accommodate 208 residents on campus, and an additional 50 commuters per month. Over the years the building has expanded from 100,000 square feet to 140,000 square feet. Currently, 123 full- and part-time staff members are employed at the center. The center is on pace to exceed 400 referrals for services in 2023.

"Like anyone else, people with disabilities want an opportunity to achieve their goals in life, and that's what the Perkins Center has done for so many Kentuckians," said Education and Labor Cabinet Deputy Secretary Beth Brinly. "It's an honor to work in an agency with so many dedicated and caring professionals who care so deeply about other people."

"The Carl D. Perkins Vocational Training Center continues to maintain high-quality services to those with the most significant disabilities through in-person and on-line formats," said Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Executive Director Cora McNabb.

"Throughout its 50 years of existence, the center has constantly adjusted to the ever-changing training and employment needs of individuals with disabilities to ensure its services are relevant and appropriate, which explains why enrollment is as high as it has ever been and continues to grow. Staff members are highly trained, dedicated and passionate about their work and they are an integral part of the success of the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation," she said.

To help consumers achieve their vocational goals, the center offers GED test preparation, adult education, skills evaluation, driving courses, and a job readiness program. Students can choose from 10 career paths including cosmetology, building maintenance, childcare development, automobile lubrication/detailing, industrial truck operator, food services, grounds keeping, materials management, office technology, and CVS Retail Pharmacy collaborative. Consumers also can prepare for college and attend the local Kentucky Community and Technical College System schools while living at the center.

Most consumers live on the 17-acre campus in dormitory housing, but many from the local community choose to commute to center classes and/or therapy. An assisted living unit staffed by nurses is also available for persons with physical disabilities who need help with activities of daily living to participate in their programs.

The center has a cap-and-gown commencement program each June for students who complete an occupational skills training or college program or earn their GED while at the Perkins Center.

"The Perkins Center is one of only eight state-operated comprehensive rehabilitation centers in the nation. Over the last 50 years we have helped more than 50,000 Kentuckians with disabilities toward their personal vocational and independence goals. September 14, we will pay tribute to our student success, our history, and our supporters, and look froward to the next 50 years of service to the commonwealth," said Alan Gullett, director of the center.

For more information about the center and the 50th anniversary celebration, please visit the center's Facebook page at Carl D. Perkins Vocational Training Center | Thelma KY | Facebook or call 606-788-7080 or toll-free in Kentucky, 1-800-443-2187 or for deaf video phone services, 1-866-761-0818.


About the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Training Center

Since July 7, 1973, more than 50,000 people have received comprehensive vocational, medical and rehabilitative services at the center. Originally called the Eastern Kentucky Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center, it was renamed by the state legislature in 2007 to honor U.S. Congressman Carl D. Perkins who represented the area. Perkins was a staunch supporter of establishing the center in that region of Kentucky so that people with severe disabilities could have access to all of the services they needed at one location.

Perkins and others wanted to locate the center in Eastern Kentucky because there was a high concentration of people with disabilities in the area who were unemployed and needed comprehensive rehabilitative services. The center is operated by the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) in the Education and Labor Cabinet.


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