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Despite a recent drop in West Virginia’s unemployment rate, many of the state’s industries continue to see a decline in jobs. One company is using federal grant money to help improve the lives of those who have found themselves out of work in the southwestern part of the state.
Brian Spence is from Wayne, West Virginia. He’s one of many people who were laid off from the Rockspring mine in May He said it was time to find something else.
“I’m getting too old to learn new stuff, but it’s time to do it,” Spence said. “Want to get a job, something different, see daylight now.”
Spence was one of 15 people this week who took part in asbestos abatement training sponsored by the Coalfield Development Corporation. The company is working with the Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences at Marshall to offer job training at West Edge, an old factory they took over outside Huntington.
The job training is funded through an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection. The two-year program is offering training in environmental service jobs such as asbestos abatement, lead abatement, mold remediation and meth-lab clean-up. Adam Warren is President of Revitalize Appalachia, an enterprise of the Coalfield Development Corporation.
“So it’s just trainings for things that are going and will be needed in the area with the dilapidated buildings that will be torn down and be reconstructed,” Warren said. “It covers a wide spectrum of all these things that are going to be needed here in the near future with a lot of people that are doing those fields now coming of retirement age, so a lot of those fields are going to be opening up.”
Coalfield Development Corporation held a week-long class in October for hazardous cleanup. Asbestos abatement training took place this month and in December, they’ll offer another one-week course in lead abatement.. Then in January they’ll start offering the training in five consecutive week-long courses with the hope of attracting even more participants.
“Our focus group is really unemployed or underemployed and there is laid-off coal miners and veterans and then just an age group of 18-25-year-olds that we kind of try to hit really hard because that’s the group that tends to be leaving and we want to try to get them a job and keep them in the area so that we can keep this area alive and well rather than having it slip away off like a lot of small communities have,” Warren said.
And according to Workforce West Virginia, there is a great need for the training being offered by the Coalfield Development Corporation. The number of unemployed West Virginians fell by 3,500 to 54,300 in October. But industries like the trades, transportation and utilities lost 1,300 jobs and Government jobs fell by 300. The mining sector also lost 800 jobs and manufacturing 400.
Amber Jackson is an employment program specialist with Workforce West Virginia. She said they have several programs around the state that are becoming more popular for those who find themselves unemployed.
“The programs seem to continue to be successful, we’re able to recruit large numbers of indivuduals to participate in the program and get them the training they need to transition,” Jackson said. “Our hope is that we continue with that success and motivate individuals to access the training funding while it’s available. “
Those who are looking for work can sign up for training and classes in their region at Workforce West Virginia’s website. Workforce can help find training in jobs that are in need of workers and often connect jobseekers with the employers. And even when the training doesn’t immediately lead to employment, it gives those receiving the training extra experience and certification. That’s what many at Coalfield Development Corporation’s job training had on their mind.
Alexander Brogan is taking part in the training program.
“It’s experience and that means more than schooling to a lot of people,” Brogan said. “I just got out of construction and into agriculture and that’s just more experience in another field and a field that I more want to go into and this is more certifications and the more you know, especially in a place that doesn’t have a lot of job opportunities, the better off you are if you are out of work.”
To graduate from the Coalfield Development job training program, participants have to complete the hazardous material cleanup training and two additional courses, such as asbestos abatement and lead renovation.