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NKU and Ion/Apex Sign Pathway Program Agreement

Paid apprentices in the electrical construction trade can earn college credit toward a degree.

nku ion apex

Photo Credit: Ben Gastright, NKY Chamber of Commerce


May 21, 2019— Leaders from Northern Kentucky University and Ion/Apex, one of Cincinnati's and Northern Kentucky's largest electrical contractors, came together Tuesday at the NKY Chamber’s GROW NKY offices in Fort Mitchell to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will enable paid apprentices in the electrical construction trade to earn college credit toward a degree at NKU.

President Ashish Vaidya and Jeff Kennedy, president/CEO of Ion/Apex, signed the MOU before a crowd of workforce and education representatives, including Kentucky Secretary of Education and Workforce, Derrick Ramsey.

The pathway program between NKU and Ion/Apex is a collaborative answer to meet a workforce demand. NKU recently unveiled Success by Design, a strategic framework that identified the university’s singular focus on advancing student success that aligns with the needs of the region. This partnership addresses that focus and the framework’s three pillars of student success—access, completion and career and community engagement. 

“We learned through our Success by Design process that these three pillars really are essential to our role in the regional eco-system, and an essential step is increasing access to higher education for all learners. That’s what we are accomplishing with Ion/Apex—a direct path, built in as part of their apprentice program, to a degree,” said NKU President Ashish Vaidya. “We are also fortunate to have so many strong collaborators, like the NKY Chamber, to create this pipeline to meet workforce demands.” 

In the state of Kentucky, experienced trade professionals are nearing retirement with 75 percent of all licensed and grandfathered electricians being 55 years of age or older. For Jeff Kennedy, President/CEO of Ion/Apex, the partnership with NKU plays a critical role in not only addressing the workforce need, but also the rise of the electrical construction trade across the region.

“As an employer committed to education and professional development we are very excited about this new partnership with Northern Kentucky University,” said Kennedy.  “For too long the choices presented to young people have been ‘college or the trades’ but through innovation in education and quality partnerships, now we have both. We see this as a critical step as we grow our organization as well as recruit, retain and develop our workforce. This initiative will have a direct impact on our growth as we expand our presence in the markets where we do business.”

Since its inception just eight months ago, GROW NKY, the comprehensive, holistic workforce development/talent strategy initiative led by the NKY Chamber in conjunction with key workforce partners, has been convening meetings between leaders from the education and business community, with the goal of facilitating partnerships such as the one between NKU and Ion/Apex.  

“The partnership between NKU and Ion/Apex is a wonderful example of what can happen when business and education come together to identify the skills that are relevant for today’s workforce and build education journeys that prepare students for the future,” said Leisa Mulcahy, Managing Director of GROW NKY and Vice President of Workforce for the NKY Chamber. “At the NKY Chamber, we want our businesses to have a deep well of talent and we want members of our communities to have a variety of employment opportunities.”

“What if every employer in Northern Kentucky had an apprentice, co-op or intern and the students involved were getting college credit towards a degree?” said Brent Cooper, President and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “This is a great example of how business and education can come together to build a system to provide opportunities of growth for students and employers alike.”

About Ion/Apex: As one of Cincinnati’s and Northern Kentucky’s largest electrical contractors, Ion/Apex has been recognized by The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce as one of the top thirty outstanding emerging companies in the area for three consecutive years. Completing a large number of diverse Commercial, Industrial, and Maintenance related projects nationwide, clients continue to make Ion/Apex Electric their contractor of choice to solve and complete their most challenging projects. Through craftmanship, great suppliers, dedicated professional employees, creative financial solutions, intellect, and strong personal relationships, we revitalize the positive aspects and integrity to our business community, craft, and profession. Learn more at

About GROW NKY: GROW NKY, Growing Regional Outcomes through Workforce Solutions, is a comprehensive, holistic approach by the NKY region’s key workforce partners who are committed to driving outcomes for talent pipeline management that will maintain and grow a strong economy and ensure that NKY will attract future business because of a strategic workforce effort, unique to the Commonwealth.  The mission of GROW NKY is to leverage the community’s full complement of assets to grow, attract, and retain a globally competitive workforce. Our vision is that GROW NKY will be a robust and collaborative ecosystem that aligns the needs of current and future employers with the interests of a diverse, world class workforce.

About NKU: Founded in 1968, we are a growing metropolitan university of more than 14,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus near Cincinnati. Located in the quiet suburb of Highland Heights, Kentucky—just seven miles southeast of Cincinnati—we have become a leader in Greater Cincinnati and Kentucky by providing a private school education for a fraction of the cost. While we are one of the fastest growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit