Students on Fast Track to Mines

It is not a free ride for Wheeling Park High School students taking Albert Holdeman’s mining class in their last two weeks of high school, but the instruction could help them obtain a lucrative career in the industry within a year of graduating high school.

“They are studying to take their Apprentice Miner Test,” Holdeman said. “Once they have passed, they will be qualified to apply for jobs in the mines.”

The class is comprised of 10 eight-hour-long instructional days and is only open to graduating seniors who are outstanding students. To participate, students must pass a drug test and pay a $400 registration fee.

Holdeman described his class as a condensed education of the basics of mining.

“It teaches safety aspects of the mining jobs,” Holdeman said. “It shows what to expect in underground conditions and it helps students get used to seeing and understanding the equipment. It also teaches about harmful gases and how to cope.”

Holdeman said he has taught the class to about 35 people over the past year and a half, usually in groups of four or five students at a time. He said he considers the program a success so far.

While taking the class, Assistant Principal Stephanie Bugaj said, the students are also responsible for all other class work they would have had to complete before graduating.

“It’s not a free pass at all,” Bugaj said.

After completing the class, students must travel to Morgantown to take the Apprentice Mining Test as part of the program. Upon graduating, $100 of their registration fee is returned to those who complete the program.

Bugaj said the mining class is a first for WPHS, and the school may consider making it an annual program.

“This was initiated last year when the coal companies actually expressed the need for more workers,” Bugaj said. “These kids can get a job by the end of summer that will pay really well.”

All students in the class are also enrolled in a technical educational program with the school to prepare for a career in the mining industry.