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Train workforce for available jobs

If there’s one lesson to take away from Bluefield State College wanting to operate a satellite campus in Wheeling, it’s this: our region’s colleges need to continue working with the local business community to meet their workforce needs.

The Council for Community and Technical Colleges has rejected Bluefield’s plans to offer degree programs in Wheeling. Bluefield said it sought to fill a need in the local business community for more engineers.

The CTC, in denying the request, said its research into engineering careers locally says otherwise. But that doesn’t mean there’s not something to Bluefield’s proposal.

While the area may not need more engineers, it does need more trained workers in fields where jobs are available. One finding from the “Greater Wheeling Regional Plan: Action Plan for Economic Development” study completed recently by West Virginia University determined that the region has an imbalance of workers with skills not in demand in the local market.

Researchers noted an imbalance in training and education, indicating that many local students are preparing for careers that do not exist in abundance locally, while the local workforce has positions for which training is not always available.

“We have more people who are coming out of the area’s colleges and universities than are able to meet the demand we are expecting,” said Eric Bowen, research professor for WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, “which may mean that those people need to look elsewhere to find a job that matches their skills.”

That’s where our local colleges — particularly West Virginia Northern — need to step in. As a community college, it is Northern’s role to meet the region’s workforce needs.

Several local businesses signed on to Bluefield State’s proposal; Northern should be reaching out to those companies, now, and finding out what they need that’s currently not being offered.

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