By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

On the 40th anniversary of getting its start in Hays because of a pilot initiative to begin a nursing program, North Central Kansas Technical College has been chosen to be the leader for another pilot project.

NCK Tech has been awarded a $150,000 Carl B. Perkins Career and Technical Education grant from the federal government to implement an information technology project through the Kansas Board of Regents.

The Microsoft IT Academy will support community and technical colleges across the state that wish to be designated as Microsoft IT Academies, allowing students to take certification tests at no charge.

In turn, those colleges then will have the opportunity to become testing sites and Microsoft IT Academies for secondary students. The grant opportunity is the result of legislation that was passed this past session that states "the Kansas Board of Regents shall provide information technology education opportunities to high school students through a public-private partnership designed to secure broad-based information technology certification."

The project -- a joint effort among the Kansas Department of Education, Kansas Board of Regents, NCK Tech, Microsoft and Certiport -- will kick off in January when a project manager is hired.

"We're excited for this opportunity," said Eric Burks, president of NCK Tech. "It will bring positive attention our IT program, which has had good success. And it will be another opportunity to add another certification, as well as another draw to our program."

"It'll be good for our program and good for our institution and good for the state of Kansas as well."