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Vo-Tech Programs a Growing Option for Region Students

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By SCOTT

McCLOSKEY

Staff Writer

Area high school and college vocational-technology programs are providing the necessary foundation for promising careers in the region, according to several area school officials.

Wheeling Park High School Assistant Principal Stephanie Bugaj said WPHS offers 18 different vocational-technology programs that many students express an interest in for possible careers. Bugaj said about 60 percent of students enroll in some type of “career-tech” class. While many students may take such a class just because it is a subject they want to learn a little more about, many others show an interest in them for possible career choices.

She said the high school breaks down its vo-tech programs into 16 different “career clusters.” Broadcasting, computer coding, culinary arts, welding, carpentry, machine tool technology, automotive technology and pre-engineering are just a few of more popular career-tech classes offered at Wheeling Park, according to Bugaj, noting she believes career opportunities look bright in this region for many of those related skills.

“Especially welding, there’s tons of welding jobs,” Bugaj said.

She said the school has had many graduates work in a variety of area machine/fabrication shops following graduation, including those who have secured technician jobs at many area automotive dealers.

“They are able to be placed in those jobs pretty easily,” she added.

Bill Glitch, a representative with Belmont-Harrison Career-Technical Center, said the school provides plenty of classes that help students achieve a solid foundation in the many vocational/technology fields.

The Career Center, which has campuses in Belmont County and Harrison County, offers 18 different programs to students during their junior and senior years of high school.

Glitch said some of the more popular classes include welding and automotive technology, mechanics programs

“We have high school students who come out as a sophomore, junior, or senior and get skills and from there they can either go into the labor force or continue their education someplace else,” Glitch explained.

According to the school’s website, their career-technical courses align curriculum with challenging academic and technical content standards to prepare students for careers or college. In addition, qualified senior students are eligible for the school’s early job placement program during school hours and they have the option to go directly to work after graduation or continue their education at the post-secondary level.

Many of their programs have state and national credential opportunities, an advantage that provides their students the essentials needed in today’s challenging and highly technical workforce.

Glitch said school officials continue to evaluate the local job market to help determine their yearly curriculum.

“We constantly look at the job market from year to year and that’s how we determine the programs we are going to offer … depending on how the labor market changes,” Glitch explained.

Ed Mower, energy institute manager with Belmont College, whose role is to work with the local energy-related industry, said in addition to traditional courses, the two-year program community college has a lot of courses and programs specifically geared toward energy industry related work.

“Going back traditionally, our industrial electronics is a program that we feed a lot of people into, whether it be a power plant or distribution (work),” Mower said. “We also offer a civil engineering technology degree. There is a big demand for that type of background with the oil and gas businesses that have come to the area.”

Mower said just in the St. Clairsville area alone, a town of about 5,000 people, five new engineering firms have opened since the onset of the oil and gas boom in the region.

“So there is just a lot of demand for people with a civil engineering technology background,” he said. “Several years ago we saw the need after working with a lot of the engineering companies that were coming to the area.”

Mower added that those companies emphasized the need for specific additional courses added to the Belmont College curriculum.

“As a result of that we have developed a couple of new degrees,” he said. “Now we have an instrumentation and control degree, because everything is going to be computerized and automated, so we’ve made a specific degree to meet that need.”

In addition, at the request of local industry, Mower said the college added an energy and natural resources degree, a process control degree and a five-week Commercial Drivers License certification.

“We included the specific courses that the oil and gas industry wanted to (us) offer,” he explained. “Which is a little bit of geology and oil and gas background. So it’s kind of tailored to that person who wants to work in the energy related industry.”

Mower said they continue to be flexible and try and tailor their courses to what is required by local industry. He said there continues to be a very large spinoff of other job opportunities as a result of the oil and gas boom.

Mower said other degrees that continue to be extremely popular at Belmont College is their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and welding degrees.

“That (HVAC) degree has grown 12-fold over the last several years,” Mower explained. “And there’s a big demand for pipeline welding.”

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