By JOHN DAHLIA
The Exponent Telegram
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The relationship between FirstEnergy Corporation and Pierpont Community & Technical College in Fairmont took a giant leap forward Thursday morning. Officials from both entities held a joint event at the North Central Advanced Technology Center to celebrate a $200,000 grant from FirstEnergy’s Foundation to Pierpont over the next two years.
“We have a great partnership with Pierpont,” said Holly Kauffman, president of FirstEnergy’s West Virginia operations. “They’re an organization that we work with to provide training hand-in-hand for our line workers and substation workers for Mon Power.”
The grant announcement was made only days after the state Legislature passed a budget which includes cuts to higher education. On Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice refused to sign the $4.225 billion budget, saying he will allow it to go into effect without his signature.
Pierpont President Johnny M. Moore said the FirstEnergy Foundation grant process actually began eight months ago. But admitted Thursday’s announcement could set a new trend.
“Public and private partnerships have always been an integral part of Pierpont’s mission,” Moore said. And now, these types of partnerships will take on a whole new role, especially when you consider what’s happening in our state in terms of its budget.”
Half of the grant amount, $100,000, was presented to Moore, members of the Pierpont Community & Technology College’s Foundation and Board of Governors. It will be used to sustain and update program needs at the North Central Advanced Technology Center located in the I-79 High Tech Park.
“With this check,” Kauffman added, “I’m hoping to challenge other businesses to step up and provide similar support to our community colleges. They provide the skills that people need to succeed in West Virginia and stay in West Virginia.”
The Thursday announcement follows FirstEnergy’s investment of nearly $240,000 of in-kind contributions supporting Pierpont programming in the past five years. FirstEnergy and Pierpont first started working together, in support of academic programs, in 2012 when Pierpont began providing classroom instruction for FirstEnergy’s Power Systems Institute.
Jhaye Jones is Pierpont’s PSI program coordinator. He attended the grant announcement to thank FirstEnergy for its commitment.
“This is an example of how industry and community colleges that are geared to put people to work in good jobs can cooperate,” he said. “My students are well known. They are extremely proud to be doing what they’re doing.”
According to a news release, the two-year PSI program combines classroom learning with hands-on training. Students who successfully complete the program earn an associate degree in electric utility technology, which can lead to a career as a line worker or substation electrician in the electric utility industry. Pierpont has graduated nearly 140 students since 2012 and their collective job placement rate is 100 percent.
“I firmly believe community colleges, particularly Pierpont in this region will become driving forces for our workforce,” Moore said. “We want to train people here and keep them here and with the generosity of companies like FirstEnergy can allow us to do that.”
Fresh from his election as the new chairman of the Pierpont Board of Governors, Chip VanAlsburg, who also attended the Thursday announcement, said the Pierpont and FirstEnergy partnership and collaboration will have a big impact across the state.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” VanAlsburg said. “We’re proving we can partner and collaborate with organizations that can help us move the job force forward.”
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