Will we have workforce to run and maintain?

After talking to business and labor leaders and seeing some of the training facilities in the area, as I wrote last week I am convinced that we are capable of building almost anything. We also have the capabilities to grow our construction workforce. We have a strong base of experience to grow from. Once these facilities are built will we have the technical people to operate them and the skilled people like welders and mechanics to keep them running? This isn’t about strong backs, it is about strong minds and skilled hands. We live in a world of computers and automation.

You may be surprised to find that the MOV has many great institutions and strong leadership to train our workforce of the future. Marietta College has one of the top Petroleum Engineering programs in the nation. Ohio Valley University in Parkersburg has one of the only undergraduate programs in the country for Energy Management and Production Engineering. Washington State Community College has strong diesel truck maintenance, chemical operator and welding programs among others and West Virginia Northern Community College has a Chemical Operator program that started on their New Martinsville campus.

Outside of the immediate area of the MOV, Ohio has at least 80 institutions around the state for training truck drivers, skilled trades, technicians of all types and engineers. West Virginia may not have as many institutions, but has engineering at West Virginia University. Their chemical and petroleum engineering department is particularly strong. West Virginia Northern Community and Technical College has campuses at Weirton, Wheeling and New Martinsville. Besides petroleum technology they have associate degrees in advanced manufacturing and chemical operator as well as certificate programs in welding among others. President Vicki Riley said, “We are having success recruiting students from recent high school graduates and displaced workers.”

Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont, W.Va., also offers Petroleum Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Associate Degrees. The son of a close family friend of ours chose to enroll in the Petroleum Technology program after he couldn’t get a job with his 4-year Criminal Justice Degree. He graduated two years ago from Pierpont and stepped into a job where he was productive immediately as a plant operator paying $50,000 a year. He loves what he does and has earned bonuses, raises and promotions. As we bring industry back to the MOV there will be many more of these jobs.

In Charleston, Bridge Valley Community and Technical College has been providing its graduates in Advanced Manufacturing, Chemical Operator and Certified Welders to the Kanawha Valley for years.

For the past two years I have taught a leadership course as an Adjunct Professor at Pierpont. I have been thoroughly impressed with the motivation of the students, their work ethic, ability to learn and common sense. All of my students work (many full time) as well as attending classes and dealing with family and personnel issues like all young people. I would hire any of them.

I recently met with Vicky Wood, the new President at Washington State Community College in Marietta. She said that they were doing well but had room to expand their programs and enrollment to meet the needs of current and new industry. All of these institution presidents told me the same thing. They are also focused on the needs of industry. Wood even volunteered to make sales calls with me when I meet with local industry leaders so she can discuss their workforce needs.

When you think of research you probably think of Ohio State University or West Virginia University, maybe even Marietta College. Ohio Valley University may not cross your mind but this small college in Parkersburg has a lot going on. It already has the land purchased and is working on a coal-to-liquids pilot plant that will make diesel fuel and jet fuel from West Virginia coal that it will sell locally. OVU Executive VP Jeff Dimick also said they are planning to research the ability to extract rare earth metals from the fly ash of the coal they burn. This could be HUGE for our country. The USA gets almost all of the rare earth metals needed for manufacturing and our military from China. Your smart phone has all 17 rare earth metals in it. A windmill turbine requires over 1,000 pounds of rare earth metals to make the turbine’s magnets.

We expect to have 2-3 years of lead time from the time a company announces its plans to expand until construction is complete and it needs workers to run the new or expanded plant. We have strong local and regional institutions to train the workers they need. They have the capacity to expand quickly. These are all strong selling points to a prospective company that wants to relocate or expand here.


Greg Kozera is director of marketing for Shale Crescent USA www.shalecrescentusa.com. He has over 40 years of experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and the author of four books and numerous published articles.