The second of two state-of-the-art Advanced Technology Centers (ATC) in the state was dedicated last week, when Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin cut the ceremonial ribbon celebrating the opening of the 65,416 square-foot, two-story, multi-faceted training facility to host customized workforce development and events at the I-79 Technology Park.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s comments centered on how partnerships bring about positive changes in our state.
“Here in West Virginia, we need a technically-skilled, highly-trained workforce. We need higher education and business and industry to work hand-in-hand. And we need to look around the corner to new innovations and opportunities that will make our state economically strong and competitive for the long haul,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. “Today, as we dedicate this state-of-the-art Advanced Technology Center, these innovations and opportunities are all around us. In these classrooms, our students will have the best technology at their fingertips and the opportunity to gain in-demand skills for the jobs we know need filled. As they earn their credentials and start their careers, their families and communities will be stronger – and our state’s future will be brighter.”
“Strengthening West Virginia’s Community and Technical Colleges is something I have been passionate about since my time as Governor,” U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said. “Today’s announcement is a testament to the CTC system, state and local officials, business investors and students who have worked together to advance these programs. The North Central Advanced Technology Center will help innovate our workforce training programs for West Virginia’s businesses and increase our students’ achievement,” said Manchin.
The West Virginia Community and Technical College System (WVCTCS) shepherded construction of both new ATCs (the South Central ATC in South Charleston was dedicated on August 19, 2014) through state-supported initiatives to help provide employers with well-trained, technically advanced workers. The North Central ATC, managed by Pierpont Community & Technical College, offers contemporary classrooms and ample laboratory space for programs such as Applied Process Technology, which includes three pathways (Advanced Manufacturing, Energy Systems Operations and Instrumentation and Controls); Petroleum Technology; Laboratory Assistant; Electric Utility Technology; Medical Laboratory Technology; and Health Information Technology. Through collaborative partnerships and private support, the ATC will play an essential role throughout North Central West Virginia in providing the latest technologies, programs, and expertise to increase regional economic growth; focusing on job creation; fostering economic development; and encouraging more students to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers.
The concept of authorizing and funding the two ATCs to serve the state’s growing workforce training challenges emerged when Governor Tomblin was West Virginia Senate President and Senator Manchin was Governor.
“For our employers to be competitive and our citizens to gain much-needed skills, the Mountain State must be able to have the advanced facilities to produce a highly educated technical workforce,” said Pierpont Community & Technical College President Johnny Moore. “The new ATC in Marion County will be a tremendous asset – a world-class facility offering quality educational programming allowing our workers and employers to be competitive in a global market.”
“Pierpont’s new North Central Advanced Technology Center is needed to prepare students for careers in an expanding technology industry which is poised for growth in West Virginia. By providing quality workforce-training and educational opportunities through its challenging programs, this new facility will contribute to the success of this institution and its students,” said Senator Capito.
Leaders from energy, chemical, healthcare, emergency management and information technology industries are taking advantage of the ATC’s spacious, private and technologically-diverse features.
One such partner is FirstEnergy Corporation. Holly Kauffman, President of West Virginia Operations for FirstEnergy, sees benefits in partnering with Pierpont.
“Our partnership with Pierpont is a successful example of how business and education can work together to create opportunities for our next generation to be successful right here in West Virginia,” said Kauffman.
Community and technical colleges in the Mountain State and nationwide are being counted on for leadership in improving energy innovation, advanced manufacturing and healthcare technology fields, as skill needs are rapidly changing and technology in the workplace is becoming more prevalent. To build capability, the West Virginia Community and Technical College System and its industry partners are competitive in pursuing federal training dollars and using flexible state resources such as the “earn and learn” program. Recent federal grant successes include the $25 million “Bridging the Gap” award, a $5.2 million award for training dislocated workers, and a $4 million TechHire award.
“By 2020, sixty-five percent of jobs will require some form of postsecondary education,” said WVCTCS Chancellor Sarah Tucker. “It’s imperative that we increase accessibility to community and technical education, so that we can supply a highly skilled workforce for our current employers and attract new businesses to our state. The completion of the second Advanced Technology Center will give more West Virginains the opportunity to get the education needed for high-paying, high-demand careers.”
The Governor, Senate Manchin and guests took a tour of the facility to learn more about the programs and state-of-the-art equipment housed at the ATC. Faculty and students were on hand for demonstrations and to respond to questions.
The West Virginia University Army ROTC color guard presented the colors and Rev. D. D. Meighen, retired pastor at Central United Methodist Church, offered the invocation. Property for the North Central ATC was donated by the High Tech Foundation.