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West Virginia Northern Community College has received $50,000 from the Dominion Foundation for a cutting-edge simulator to meet the demand for highly-technical professions associated with the development of Marcellus Shale resources.
Dr. Martin J. Olshinsky, president of Northern, said the “funding is coming at an opportune time because the college’s expansion in Weirton and Wheeling includes classes in Mechatronics,” which awards an associate in applied science degree in a new program designed to prepare individuals to be electrical and mechanical maintenance technicians. New extraction methods utilized in the Marcellus region require advanced welding techniques and an extensive understanding of both mechanical and electrical engineering.
“We are gratified that the Dominion Foundation recognizes West Virginia Northern’s initiatives to help train workers for the high-demand jobs associated with Marcellus Shale,” Olshinsky said. “The college and the WVNCC Foundation are thankful for Dominion’s assistance.”
“Workforce development and having skilled and trained workers positioned to take advantage of opportunities in our state is critical to our state’s economic vitality and future,” said Jeffrey Barger, vice president, pipeline operations, for Dominion Transmission, a subsidiary of Richmond, Va.,-based Dominion Resources Services. “We take great pleasure in forming strategic partnerships with colleges such as West Virginia Northern Community College … to help our schools provide West Virginians with the skills they need to compete in a highly competitive work environment.”
“The development of the Marcellus Shale, along with other economic development efforts, hinge on increasing the number of technically proficient college graduates in West Virginia,” said Jim Skidmore, chancellor of the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia. “These generous gifts by the Dominion Foundation provide a marketable-classroom experience for students while keeping a community and technical college education affordable and accessible.”
WVNCC will increase the employability of their Mechatronics graduates with the inclusion of a hydraulics simulator into their curriculum. The simulator delivers training in the design, installation, and troubleshooting of complex hydraulic systems. Professionals with these skills coupled with a background in mechanical and electrical engineering are in high-demand to fuel the continued growth in the oil and gas industry nationwide.
In addition, Dominion granted $50,000 to West Virginia University at Parkersburg to install a Lincoln VRTEX 350 Virtual Welding Simulator to allow students to learn and practice advanced welding processes in a safe environment. The computer-based training system provides students experience with a variety of joint configurations and materials. The simulator also greatly reduces the materials, energy consumption and associated costs of the program.
“As new extraction methods are used in the Marcellus Shale region, advanced welding techniques and an extensive understanding of both mechanical and electrical technology will be necessary,” West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a news release. "In an effort to meet this demand for highly technical professionals, these grants will be used for cutting-edge simulators which will allow students to learn in a safe classroom environment."
A Dominion spokesman said charitable giving and volunteerism are an integral part of Dominion’s commitment to the communities it serves. The Dominion Foundation contributes more than $20 million annually to non-profit organizations and schools. Foundation grants are funded by shareholder dollars and are not borne by customers, it was noted.