October 26, 2011

‘Great things will happen’ | Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — When U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III served as governor, he had a vision for West Virginia. 

He envisioned a state-of the- art facility dedicated to technical education and training that would support the economic development of North Central West Virginia. 

Standing in front of a crowded room Tuesday afternoon at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center, he was greeted with an enthusiastic response by community members for his influence in starting a project of this caliber. Tuesday marked the groundbreaking ceremony for the North Central Advanced Technology Center. 

The 55,000-square-foot facility will offer core classes in information technology, power plant technology, allied health, mechatronics technology and more. Several Pierpont programs will also be offered at the center. Other features include a distance learning classroom, biology and physics lab, and a hands-on technology demonstration area. 

Construction on the new facility, which will be located at the I-79 Technology Park, is expected to start within the next 30 days. 

“Whether we agree or disagree, we always come together as West Virginians,” Manchin said during the ceremony.

He knows this all too well after traveling throughout the country and state. At a time when dropout rates are the highest they have been, it’s crucial to have these programs put in place to cater to students who aren’t necessarily striving for a bachelor’s degree.

“Why not at that point get them early enough to transition into basically a skill set that will take them through their life?” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s why I say West Virginia can be a model to the rest of the country.”

Not only are dropout rates higher, but some employers are struggling to fill job openings. Current statistics show that 3.2 million jobs in the United States can’t be filled because employers are unable to find workers with the necessary skill set, according to Manchin.

“The demand is there,” he said. “If we don’t have the skill sets and the workforce, we will get behind. That’s what we’re going to witness in economic war is out-educating. It’s by outworking. That’s really where you all come in.”

Gov.-elect Earl Ray Tomblin views these technology centers as an extension to the community college system. Offering the addition will help properly train those individuals to thrive in the current workforce that is changing rapidly.

“We have a great workforce in West Virginia, very hard-working people, but they need their skills brushed up a little bit,” Tomblin said. “And that’s what we as a state and we as a community have got to offer to our citizens out there.”

Having this center will enhance the outlook of not only the local community but the entire state.

“I’m just so pleased to be here today, to be a part of this, and I can’t wait to get back to when we can cut the ribbon and watch the students walk through the door because it is going to make such a difference in the lives of so many,” Tomblin said. “As long as we continue to do what we’re doing in West Virginia, great things will happen.”

Appreciation ran deep for those who have been part of the process. Chancellor Jim Skidmore, who presided over the ceremony, was one of them.

“This is an occasion for celebration and a day for anticipation, and it’s going to be a day where there’s going to be a lot of thank yous because we need to thank a lot of people,” Chancellor Jim Skidmore said.

Legislators, regional businesses, community members and others were thanked multiple times throughout the ceremony for their ongoing support.

“This truly is a great day for North Central West Virginia,” state Sen. Roman Prezioso said.

Skidmore and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System have partnered with Pierpont Community & Technical College President Doreen Larson and the Board of Governors to keep the project moving forward and are ecstatic for the progression made.

As president of Pierpont C&TC, Larson is grateful for not only the funding provided by the Legislature and the land donated by the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, but also for the positive support shown in making this a reality. Moments like these are what make her cherish her job even more.

“There are many parts to my job as president of Pierpont that I dearly enjoy, but none so much as to be a part of a project that will dramatically change the lives of individuals, that will significantly accelerate the growth of our regional economy.”

After the ceremony, guests watched as Tomblin, Manchin, Larson and other guest speakers and guests placed their shovels into the ground.

“To have this in our backyard is unbelievable,” Manchin said following the ceremony.

Architects anticipate completion by summer or fall of 2013. 

By:  Nicole Lemal
Source: Officials tout benefits of North Central Advanced Technology Center