Workforce development discussed at WVNCC

WHEELING – West Virginia Northern Community College is working to provide the local Marcellus Shale industry the trained workers its needs, according to Mike Koon, WVNCC vice president of Workforce Development and Weirton campus dean.

West Virginia lawmakers attended interim session meetings this week on the WVNCC campus. On Thursday, Koon updated members of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Workforce Investment for Economic Development on the school’s current projects.

“We’ve been very much involved with Marcellus Shale development,” he said. “We’ve offered two or three short-term programs in the New Martinsville region to get some of those folks down there employed. That’s the highest unemployment (area) we’ve got.”

Koon said last year, Dominion Resources asked for WVNCC’s assistance as it sought to hire employees as pipefitters’ helpers for its new natural gas processing plant in Marshall County. He said the company’s request came on Feb. 14, and officials told WVNCC they needed about 50 employees by May 1. WVNCC didn’t have the facilities, instructors or even the students to fill the request at the time, according to Koon.

“But we’re good at fast turnaround,” he continued. “We rented a shed, hired some instructors and trained about 100 to begin. There were 74 that finished the program, and between 55 and 60 were actually employed.”

Koon said WVNCC often does projects in conjunction with Workforce West Virginia.

Pietro Fiorentini, a firm that builds components for the natural gas industry, asked WVNCC to help them test potential employees’ capabilities as welders for the company.

“We worked with folks from Workforce West Virginia to set up a testing program on our Weirton campus to see who is eligible for the program,” Koon said. “They (Pietro Fiorentini) found two, and they were sent to Italy last week to be trained in welding. They’ll do the training there, then they’ll come back and be an employee here.”

Also speaking to the committee was Beth Nogay Carenbauer, director of business services and human resources for Workforce West Virginia. She spoke of the agency’s efforts to help dislocated workers through retraining.

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Workforce West Virginia a $1.8 million National Emergency Grant to provide retraining and re-employment services to homemakers and dislocated coal miners impacted by mass layoffs and coal mine closures.