The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) today awarded the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) at Marshall University $336,796 to expand advanced welding training in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky to better serve key industries such as automotive, aviation, manufacturing, petrochemical and power generation.
The Advanced Welding Workforce Initiative (AWWI) award to RCBI was the largest of five such grants announced Tuesday. AWWI is a partnership between ARC and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to increase education and training for advanced technical workers in Appalachia to prepare them for in-demand jobs in the region’s growing industrial sectors.
“ARC and NETL recognize that a key component of economic expansion and job creation is a highly skilled workforce,” said Charlotte Weber, RCBI director & CEO. “This award boosts RCBI’s capacity to meet the workforce needs of leading industries through a rapid-response approach that delivers the specific, customized training that companies require while also empowering individual workers with additional career-enhancing skills.”
Weber said RCBI’s business outreach team will work closely with industry partners to assess their needs then align delivery of welding training to each individual company.
A distinctive feature of the new RCBI initiative will include deployment of a mobile training laboratory to deliver on-the-job, fast-track certifications and customized training at company locations across the region. The mobile lab’s flexible and responsive approach will enable companies to upskill new and incumbent workers more quickly and cost-effectively. RCBI also will expand advanced welding training at its facilities in Cabell and Wayne counties to include gas tungsten arc (TIG), alloys and robotics.
“Advanced welding is a growing field across Appalachia, and this training program will provide hard-working West Virginians with the skills they need to fill the stable, good-paying jobs in the manufacturing industry,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. “This is a great partnership between two of our federal partners in the region, and I am pleased by the ARC and NETL investment in our people and will continue to work with the Robert C. Byrd Institute to bring more training programs to the Mountain State.”
“People across West Virginia are no stranger to hard work,” U. S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito said. “The Advanced Welding Workforce Initiative gives people across West Virginia and Appalachia the chance to develop a trait, forge a life for themselves and their family, and contribute to their communities. Partnerships like this are essential to the future of our state, and I thank ARC and NETL for continuing to invest into the people of West Virginia.”
In addition, RCBI will incorporate additional advanced welding methods into its nationally recognized Welding Technology Program, which boasts a job placement rate of more than 90 percent. The industry-driven career skills program offers specialized, hands-on instruction and enables students to earn a one-year certificate or two-year associate of applied science degree in welding from Mountwest Community & Technical College in addition to national credentials from the American Welding Society.
Scott Straub, president of Huntington-based Wilson Welding Co., said the RCBI initiative will benefit companies such as his by providing a reliable talent pipeline. “To meet the needs of our customers across the country, we offer very sophisticated welding of all types that require TIG applications,” Straub explained. “We now can turn to RCBI to help us fill multiple welding positions we anticipate having in the near future and this initiative also presents an opportunity for our existing employees to advance their careers by gaining additional training through RCBI.”