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Training Changing Face of West Virginia’s Workforce

January 12, 2010 - 12:41pm

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West Virginia is wild and wonderful, known for its rushing whitewater, luscious valleys and John Denver’s country roads. The state that powers 33 others and the District of Columbia is getting ready for the clean energy economy.

New River Community and Technical College is training the workforce — and more trainers — in measures used to weatherize American homes. With 3,700 homes slated to be weatherized in West Virginia under the Recovery Act, educating enough trainers to teach the large workforce is a daunting challenge that its community colleges are eager to meet.

West Virginia’s stimulus funding is expected to spur green jobs and build skills for the future in a state that relies on a nonrenewable energy source ­— coal — to employ 35,000 members of its workforce. New River is gearing up to educate the state’s new clean energy workers, who will go on to help residents implement energy efficiency measures and maybe even someday install renewable energy systems. Greg Perry, owner of a building company, is taking these classes to help his company compete in the marketplace because he’s no longer building scores of new homes like he once did.

 “I’m looking for a new niche market, and I also feel pretty strongly about making an effort to reduce our carbon footprint,” Greg says. “The new home market around here dried up and people are holding on to what they have, so there are some opportunities do to retrofits that save energy.”

William Loope, a vice president at New River responsible for workforce education, agrees.

“This training will not only change the landscape of our workforce, but also it’ll change the ability of West Virginians to deploy more of their financial resources into the local economy,” he says. “So green jobs are truly a stimulus here because it’s not just creating something in the short-term, it’s also creating long-term effects by training workers in a job market that will be there for a long time.”

More information about New River Community and Technical College is available at http://www.newriver.edu.

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