June 18, 2015

West Virginia Delegation Applauds Funding for Workforce West Virginia

Last week, the delegation wrote a letter urging the Department of Labor to approve proposal. $5.2 million grant will support job training programs in response to widespread and significant energy industry layoffs.

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, along with Representatives David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins, applauded the Department of Labor’s approval of Workforce West Virginia’s emergency comprehensive workforce training proposal. The $5.2 million grant will expand job training programs for unemployed West Virginians, particularly those individuals in the coal mining industry and industries related to and affected by continued mining layoffs.

On June 11, the Delegation wrote a letter urging the Department of Labor to
approve Workforce West Virginia’s proposal. To read the letter, please
click here.

“In the past several months, we have seen a devastating amount of coal mining layoffs,” Senator Manchin said. “It is unacceptable and it is jeopardizing not only our coal industry, but our way of life in West Virginia. We need to do everything in our power to help our miners in these most challenging and uncertain times. This funding will expand job training programs that will help them develop the skillsets necessary to fill other available positions. I thank Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor for their swift approval of this proposal.”

“Significant layoffs in West Virginia’s coal industry have been absolutely devastating to hard-working coal miners, their families and individuals in related industries. We must do everything possible to identify new career and skills training opportunities for unemployed West Virginians,” said Senator Capito. “The Workforce West Virginia and West Virginia Community and Technical College System Sector Partnership promises to serve our dislocated workers through training programs that will lead to high-wage, high-skills jobs in manufacturing, information technology, health care, oil and gas, and other emerging sectors of our state’s economy. I’m pleased the Department of Labor heard West Virginia’s call and granted funding for this critical workforce training proposal.”

“West Virginians still cannot find jobs. Government-imposed regulations are crushing the American Dream. Our state has lost 45% of its coal workforce in the past 3 years – families are hurting and they deserve our attention. Grants like this, to train and educate our workforce, are vital to West Virginia’s future success,” Representative McKinley said.

“Upon the urging of myself and the delegation, I am pleased to see that this administration has decided to help us combat unemployment in our state. I will continue to work with this administration, when possible, to advance the policies that will help put West Virginians back to work,” Representative Mooney said.

“Southern West Virginia’s coalfields have been decimated by layoffs, and our families are struggling to make ends meet. Job retraining is vital to helping West Virginians get back on their feet. This grant will allow Workforce West Virginia to expand its work and help even more families secure a better future,” Representative Jenkins said.

Below is the full text of the West Virginia Delegation’s letter to the Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Responding to widespread and significant layoffs, principally in the energy industry, WorkForce West Virginia submitted an emergency comprehensive workforce training proposal to you on May 29, 2015.

The WorkForce West Virginia and West Virginia Community and Technical College System Sector Partnership National Emergency Grant seeks $7 million between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2017.  The grant proposes to focus on long-term unemployed West Virginians and individuals determined likely to exhaust unemployment benefits, with particular attention to the continued needs of the unemployed coal mining industry community, and individuals dislocated from industries related to and affected by continued mining layoffs.

Current data tells us there are 2,914 unemployed individuals in mining in West Virginia.   Dislocations continue: in May 2015, Murray Energy and Alpha Natural Resources announced more than 2,000 new layoffs in our state.

The Mountain State’s nine community and technical colleges and seven Regional Workforce Investment Boards would be contractually responsible for meeting the grant proposals objectives.

The proposed Sector Partnership project will build upon sector-driven efforts in West Virginia including the foundation established through the TAACCCT-funded West Virginia Bridging the Gap initiative, Regional Sector Consortia, and strong industry training partnerships with Toyota, DuPont and the ShaleNet consortium. With this strong regional planning work and expertise in Energy and Manufacturing sectors as a basis, West Virginia will develop new sector-driven training initiatives in those sectors, plus build new sector initiatives in the Health Care and Information Technology industries.

Workforce West Virginia and the community/technical colleges plan to serve 700 dislocated workers through accelerated programs that lead to high-wage, high-skill jobs. This grant is a partnership between WorkForce West Virginia, the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia (which will lead the project), industry partners and a host of community organizations.  Skills training will focus on integrating classroom and on-the-job learning, build on models developed through WV Bridging the Gap, and integrate enhanced support services and career coaching into industry-driven programs.  Displaced homemakers (spouses and children of dislocated workers) will also be a target of this initiative.

Our state’s prior Coal Mining National Emergency grant was targeted to help only 700 miners, and you can see there are far more newly unemployed West Virginians who need our help.

We appreciate your agency’s partnership in addressing this significant downturn in the state’s energy economy, and encourage you and your colleagues at the Labor Department to give all possible favorable consideration to this proposal.  Please let us know the status of your deliberations as well as your final funding decision.