Editorial: Community colleges are working for West Virginia



For years, some people in West Virginia have complained that jobs in the hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus shale formation have gone to people from Texas and other states.

But where else were the companies going to find trained workers? West Virginia’s labor force lacked the personnel with the training and skills the oil and natural gas industry needed.

That problem is solving itself. Northern Community College in Wheeling and Pierpont Community & Technical College in Fairmont created the Appalachian Petroleum Technology Training Center a few years ago to offer students a chance to get into this industry.

This week, Texas-based Noble Energy gave the center $250,000, which drew praise from James Skidmore, chancellor of the Community and Technical College System,

“Noble has gone above and beyond its financial donation today,” Skidmore said. “They have worked with us from the very beginning to develop the program and their input has been vital to us and to the folks that work with this program in developing the skills they say their workers are going to need to be successful.”

This is responsible education that is responsive to the needs of students. Yes, the industry could use more local workers and companies do benefit from the training of potential employees.

But the West Virginians who get those jobs are the biggest winners. Colleges exist to serve students. The oil and gas industry pay their workers well, because their employees have the skills the companies need.

It’s nice to study theology or early childhood education. But the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reported those are the lowest paying majors.

The highest paying major is petroleum engineering, and it has been for decades. The community colleges in West Virginia are responding.

It behooves young West Virginians to take advantage of that opportunity.

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