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$7.2 Million federal-private sector workforce training investment underway at BridgeValley CTC

Release from BridgeValley Community and Technical College

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Southern West Virginia Advanced Technology Center (ATC) is home to a four-year initiative to train 400 West Virginia young adults, aged 17 to 29, for information technology and advanced manufacturing middle and high-skill jobs. The first class of 70 students started course work in January.

That news was shared by Carol A. Perry, Ed.D., program director for the West Virginia TechHire Initiative, in a letter dated April 6 updating the West Virginia Congressional delegation, Governor and state legislators in the 10-county region where most students reside. Competition for the grant was fierce, as only 39 proposals out of more than 200 submitted were funded.

BridgeValley Community and Technical College, which operates the ATC, secured a coveted $4 million U.S. Department of Labor TechHire grant in July 2016 that can help transform the lives of students, their families and employers anxiously seeking more skilled local workers. Leveraged resources totaling $3.2 million bring the West Virginia TechHire training investment to $7.2 million.

Dr. Perry said support from the Congressional members, then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, regional employers and economic development organizations was very encouraging. “All five members of the West Virginia delegation supported our proposal,” said Dr. Perry, “even though only 10 counties – Boone, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Mason, Putnam and Wayne counties are to be served. That showed a united front to the Labor Department and to those of us working on this project.”

She also cited the interest and support of local job creators. “By gaining the trust of regional IT and advanced manufacturing employers and economic development partners, we are laser-focused on training and preparing TechHire students for real jobs that will bolster our economy,” said Perry. The initial class of students is focusing on Cyber Security, Welding Technology and Electrical Engineering Technology courses. To help them overcome “personal or academic” barriers to employment they might face, including a downturn in the coal industry, BridgeValley CTC hired student success coaches to navigate pitfalls through academic advising, counseling services, career planning guidance and job placement assistance. The federal grant allows for the hiring of math and English professors to support TechHire students.

There are 13 employers collaborating on the curriculum, equipment and preparation of students as well as the following economic development partners: Advantage Valley, Inc., Charleston Area Alliance, Chemical Alliance Zone, Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, TechConnectWV, United Mine Workers Career Centers, Inc., West Virginia Department of Education (Office of Adult Education), West Virginia Manufacturing Association, and the workforce development boards in Regions 1, 2 and 3.

“Now that our $25 million, three-year Bridging the Gap workforce training grant is coming to a close, TechHire will allow us to leverage investments made from those program initiatives and keep the job creation momentum in IT and advanced manufacturing,” said Eunice Bellinger, Ph.D., president of BridgeValley CTC. “This federal-private investment will help 400 fortunate students enrolled in TechHire become TechHired.”

West Virginia Community and Technical College System Chancellor Sarah Tucker, in testifying March 15 before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-Health and Human Services-Education on the importance of STEM education and industry partnerships, cited the TechHire program as one that should be continued, funded and nurtured. “Federal support and collaboration on our STEM-focused training opportunities is invaluable for West Virginia’s community colleges and for community colleges nationwide,” Dr. Tucker told West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito at the hearing.

Employers are seeking the following skill sets in its new workers trained by the TechHire grant – computer system analysts, software developers, web developers, computer user support specialists, mechanical engineers, industrial machinery mechanics, machinists, instrumentation technicians and mechatronics technicians, to name a few.

BridgeValley CTC is seeking more students to fulfill employer needs and the grant requirements through a rolling admissions process through mid-August:http://www.bridgevalley.edu/west-virginia-technology-transformation-initiative.

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