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Column - Investing In Our State, Supporting Our Future Workforce


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Having a well-prepared, educated workforce is essential to ensuring our state's continued growth and economic success--we must have skilled workers to fill jobs. West Virginia's ten community and technical colleges are helping us reach this goal--affordably, in two years or less and close to home. Their emphasis on practical, hands-on training is helping students prepare for and land positions in many in-demand fields.

Education is the cornerstone of economic development, and we've taken that message to schools across the state. Our education system -- especially our community colleges and technical schools -- have stepped up to the task of providing businesses and industry with a skilled workforce by adapting curriculums to meet the needs of new business in our state. We're helping companies that have invested in West Virginia grow by supporting our future workers.

Workforce projections show that 44 percent of job openings in the next 10 years will require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree--meaning they will require the highly-skilled technical training currently being offered by our community and technical colleges. In just four years, workplace demands will require an additional 20,000 college graduates to maintain West Virginia's economy, which continues to grow. As a result, our state's community and technical colleges are seeing unprecedented growth.

For years, we have worked hard to make the most of the development of the Marcellus and Utica Shales. This new energy sources has provided the Mountain State with enormous economic development opportunities -- including the development of Project ASCENT, which will include an ethane Cracker, three polyethylene plants, and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation..

Since we started recruiting these economic development opportunities, our community and technical colleges have developed a variety of programs to make sure companies are able to hire qualified West Virginia workers.

Since 2007, West Virginia community and technical colleges have implemented 133 new programs specifically tailored to workforce development and training--including The Appalachian Petroleum Technology Training Center, one of only 14 programs of its kind in the nation. Each of these programs is an example of a successful partnership between industry and our education system. These partnerships are vital to our future success and continued workforce development.

West Virginia's community and technical programs are also taking the lead in providing new opportunities for our men and women in uniform. They support new training opportunities for veterans--including new cyber-security programs--and have been recognized by the Military Times.

By 2016, community and technical colleges across the state have committed to helping 16,000 students become new certificate and degree holders. By encouraging students with some college credits, but no degree, to come back to school and initiate new innovative programming, community and technical colleges are playing a critical role in educating our workforce and preparing our graduates for opportunities to succeed in West Virginia.

Hands-on skills have always been important in West Virginia and our community and technical schools are helping to play a critical role in making sure West Virginians have the technical skills to apply themselves and support the future of our state, today and tomorrow.

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