Trades face shortage of skilled labor
WVNCC prof: Younger workers focusing on four-year degrees
WEIRTON — A wave of new industry-based jobs is heading toward the Upper Ohio Valley, but there aren’t enough people with the skills needed to fill them.
That was the message delivered as part of a special education seminar, held Tuesday at the Weirton campus of West Virginia Northern Community College and hosted by the college, in conjunction with the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce.
Approximately a dozen area residents and representatives of business, industry and government were in attendance, as Curt Hippensteel, chair of WVNCC’s Division of Applied Technology, explained there is a shortage of workers with the necessary skills to fill the jobs anticipated for the region as petroleum and other industries continue to grow.
“This is not just our region,” Hippensteel said. “If they have industry, they have these same needs.”
He noted much of the reason can be attributed to those who do have the skills approaching retirement age, and younger workers focusing more on four-year degrees instead of the trades.
“There is a lot of demand; not much supply right now,” he said, adding some projections showed the possibility of 7,000 jobs being available per year in some regions of the country, while being able to fill less than 500.
WVNCC, he said, as well as Eastern Gateway Community College and the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center, have programs Hippensteel said can prepare residents for such jobs.
Hippensteel showed examples of four WVNCC graduates who were able to land positions in industries thanks to the programs offered at the college.
“A lot of them will have jobs before they graduate,” he said.
Hippensteel noted one individual was receiving job offers while in class, while another accepted one position and has since received multiple promotions.
WVNCC currently offers a variety of training programs, including advanced manufacturing, chemical operator technology, industrial maintenance, instrumentation, petroleum technology, refrigeration/heating/air conditioning, and welding. The advanced manufacturing and industrial maintenance programs are available at the Weirton campus, and Larry Tackett, WVNCC vice president of economic workforce and development, noted the college is working to develop a welding training center in the city.
Tackett also noted the college has partnership programs with some area high schools, including Brooke, which can allow early admission and lead to students completing their technical certification by the time they graduate high school.
Special training also can be arranged for area businesses, if they find their employees are in need of additional programs.
“If we don’t have a person to do it, we have the resources to bring someone in,” Tackett said.
Chamber President Brenda Mull extended her thanks to WVNCC for presenting the seminar, and asked those in attendance to contact the chamber with suggestions on other possible seminar topics.
“We hope it’s something that will benefit you as a business,” she said.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)