McKinley, Educators Talk Regional Workforce Needs

Jason Koegler, left, vice president of institutional advancement at West Liberty State College, and Ginny Favede, executive director of Ohio Valley Construction Employers Council and co-chair of Project Best, speak after a workshop to discuss regional workforce needs Thursday at West Virginia Northern Community College.

Skilled construction and technical workers will be needed in the Ohio Valley in the coming years, and public schools face the need of training them.

“Everywhere we go … employers are saying they are having problems finding a trained, skilled work force,” said U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley.

McKinley’s office — and that of Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio — partnered with the Ohio Valley Construction Employers Council to sponsor a regional workforce needs workshop Thursday at West Virginia Northern Community. Among those also participating were public school officials in West Virginia and Ohio, the Regional Economic Development Partnership, H.E. Neumann Co., Belmont College and Warwood Tool.

Attendees were asked how today’s youth could be inspired to take on construction and vocational jobs.

“We asked school districts from up and down the Ohio Valley how they might be able to point their students in the direction of career and technical education,” McKinley said. “For too many years, the focus in education was that everyone should go to college. As a result, our vocational and CTE programs took a back seat.

“Now we’re coming up short with people who are willing to work with their hands. There was a stigma associated with people who work with their hands, but they can make good money.”

Educators were asked what Congress can do to assure there is a larger skilled workforce for construction jobs.

McKinley said one of the last questions during the workshop came from Ohio County Board of Education President Zach Abraham, who said school districts need to know just how many students they need to train each year for skilled and technical jobs.

“He asked us how many welders, how many machinists are going to be needed,” McKinley said. “If they (school districts) are going to be the source to train to get these kids available, they need to know we need 40 next year so they can train 40. No one is ‘quarterbacking’ it, was his analogy.”

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