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Training its students for a high-skill, high-wage job has been on the radar for years at West Virginia Northern Community College. Now WVNCC has been earmarked to receive nearly $1.8 million in federal funds to assist in doing just that.
Earlier this month, it was announced that $25 million in federal funding had been approved for the Bridging the Gap Consortium, a group of 10 community and technical colleges in West Virginia dedicated to expanding and improving education and career training programs in fields that lead to high-wage, high-skilled jobs and careers.
According to a news release from the office of U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the $25 million award is the highest level of funding that can be allocated under the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Community College and Career Training funding program, and “reflects the great work of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System in building a strong network of leaders in industry, labor and academia throughout the state fully committed to preparing the state’s workforce for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations.”
WVNCC President Martin J. Olshinsky said the funds greatly will enhance expanding the college’s recent efforts to provide state-of-the-art training for such jobs. “Our new building on the Wheeling campus and the new addition to the Weirton campus building already house new programs that are providing training for in-demand jobs,” he said. “This new funding will allow us to ratchet up those efforts.”
Northern’s Mechatronics program, leading to a degree in industrial maintenance, and the Petroleum Technology program, along with welding and plans for a program in diesel mechanics, all are new additions to the curriculum. “Our administrative team is beginning planning for use of this much-appreciated federal grant,” Olshinsky said.
The grant proposal calls for the funded projects to be implemented during a three-year period. Built into the grant budget proposals are funds for hiring of personnel, travel, classroom/laboratory equipment, supplies and other related costs.
In a separate release, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said, "Investing in education programs that will help our students earn good-paying, high-skilled jobs in the manufacturing, energy, information technology and construction fields will only lead to greater success across our great state. I encourage all West Virginians seeking to earn a degree in these industries to seize this great opportunity, which will ultimately help attract businesses, competition and economic prosperity to West Virginia."
Rockefeller said, “West Virginia’s community and technical colleges play an important role in building our state’s skilled workforce so this award gives them the ability to strengthen and expand targeted degree opportunities for students, including our veterans and American workers who have lost their jobs to foreign trade. I’m so pleased this investment will support students in our state as they work toward building careers in emerging and growing fields.”
“This grant will greatly enhance our community and technical college efforts to address the education and workforce needs of West Virginia,” James Skidmore, chancellor of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education, said. “I am appreciative of all the hard work that went into this effort. I want to thank our congressional delegation for their tremendous support of our proposal.”
Rockefeller, who has long supported TAA benefits for American workers, said he authored a delegation letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to express his strong support for Bridgemont Community and Technical College’s grant application for the state-wide consortium, and most recently spoke personally to Secretary Perez to make sure the state’s application received every possible consideration. The grant program also benefits workers who are eligible for training under the TAA program, which gives U.S. workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade the opportunity to receive career training.
Bridgemont leads the 10-member consortium of community and technical colleges that will each receive a portion of the $25 million award. The award will strengthen programs at each institution that award skill set certificates, certificate degrees, and associate’s degrees in the areas of manufacturing and Mechatronics, energy technology, information technology and construction.
The 10-members of the consortium, and the funding they are scheduled to receive, include:
• Bridgemont Community and Technical College, Montgomery - $8,829,042
• West Virginia University at Parkersburg, Parkersburg - $3,022,910
• Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, Martinsburg - $2,676,385
• Pierpont Community and Technical College, Fairmont - $2,280,934
• West Virginia Northern Community College, Wheeling - $1,793,154
• Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, Mount Gay - $1,564,279
• Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, South Charleston - $1,395,981
• New River Community and Technical College, Beckley - $1,337,106
• Mountwest Community and Technical College, Huntington - $1,237,903
• Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College, Moorefield - $862,396