West Virginia Community Colleges Get Tech Apprentice Grant

The federal grant, worth $4 million, will fund training and placement for apprentices in information technology jobs. More than 1,600 students will learn and earn while using new technologies during the four-year program.

by Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette / July 2, 2019
Zach Williams, a military veteran, is a cybersecurity apprentice in Maryland. (David Kidd)

(TNS) — The West Virginia Community and Technical College System has been awarded a nearly $4 million federal grant that will fund expanding a program that trains and retrains students and workers while helping companies simultaneously pay them.

That’s according to Sarah Tucker, chancellor of the CTCS and interim chancellor of the state’s four-year college counterpart system.

Called Apprenticeships in Motion, or AIM, the program will train and place “apprentices” in information technology jobs.

Tucker said the $4 million, combined with $1.5 million in salary matching money from the private sector, will expand the state’s Learn and Earn program to help a further, at minimum, 1,600 more students/workers over the next four years.

Beyond matching salary, she said the federal funds will go toward adding academic programs, improving those programs and providing more support to students, such as paying for their books.

“The No. 1 reason people don’t go to school is because they can’t afford to go to school,” Tucker said.

Although the West Virginia Legislature this year approved a free community college tuition program, Tucker said costs go beyond just tuition.

“They have to be able to pay their mortgage, they have to be able to pay their car loan. What if their car breaks down?” she said.

On Monday, Tucker joined U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., state Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch, some community college presidents and others in announcing the funding.

Acosta, in the event at BridgeValley Community and Technical College’s South Charleston campus, praised the salaries that apprenticeship programs lead to.

“The Trump administration is looking to expand those apprenticeship opportunities, broadly, to all sectors,” Acosta said. “You can earn and you can learn simultaneously, so you not only have a job, but a career path.”

He said fees companies pay through the H-1B visa program, which is for foreign workers to work in the United States, will fund the grant.

Through the grant, Tucker said, the CTCS also is working with Gaunch’s department, which has the Governor’s Guaranteed Work Force Program. She said that program trains those who already are employed.

“There are a whole lot of companies that are changing their operating systems, that are changing the technology that they use, but the people that work for them have no idea how to use the new technology,” Tucker said. “And so those people are also having to come back and get retrained.”

Through Learn and Earn, students have to be paid at least $12 an hour, Tucker said. The program can take various forms, she said, such as two days per week in class and three days at work, or alternating 10 weeks in class and 10 weeks working, or alternating a whole year in class and a summer at work before returning to class.

Tucker said 17 companies have agreed to take students through AIM. She said she wants to get more companies involved.

Those companies and other entities already slated to participate include IBM, TMC Technologies, Wheeling Hospital, Allegheny Wood Products and the West Virginia Rural Water Association.

©2019 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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