WVNCC Expands Programs, Space While Keeping College Affordable

Brandy Killeen, welding instructor at West Virginia Northern Community College, welds in college’s new Industrial Technology Center.

WHEELING — West Virginia Northern Community College has made great strides in recent years to help Ohio Valley students achieve their career goals.

The college worked to grow its programs and expand its learning space, all while keeping the cost of its education affordable, Northern spokesman David Barnhardt said.

“We like to take a proactive approach to the needs of the Ohio Valley and put our students in a position to be successful and train them for opportunities that lie ahead,” Barnhardt said.

One of the main focuses of the college has been to grow its applied technologies programs, such as welding and petroleum technology, as well as other programs such as nursing and culinary arts.

“At our Wheeling, Weirton and New Martinsville campuses, we offer programs and have partnerships that educate people and get them in a career quickly,” Barnhardt said.

In August, the college opened up its new Industrial Technology Center, or ITC, building, which houses its welding and petroleum technology programs. Adding the center allowed the college to greatly expand both programs, Barnhardt said.

“Formerly, the Welding and Petroleum Technology programs at (Northern) were confined by limited space,” he said. “The renovation more than doubles the amount of welding booths available to students to 20 booths.”

The 20,000 square-foot ITC building, which previously housed an electrical supply warehouse, now offers a petroleum technology lab, a welding lab, classrooms and a student lounge.

The building consists of both indoor and outdoor labs, which more closely replicates a real world environment, Barnhardt said. The facility also has additional area that will provide flexible space to accommodate new programs as the needs of the industry change, he said.

“The programs are designed to prepare students for employment in the natural gas drilling, gathering and field operations industry associated with development of the Marcellus and Utica shales,” Barnhardt said. “It provides a strong foundation in oil and gas exploration, production and development in the Appalachian Basin.”

The college has added a number other programs in recent years as well. For one, it added a cyber security program, which helps students become well-versed in handling security and risk in computing.

Northern also added a mine maintenance associate degree program, in which students can work part-time with Murray Energy and potentially be hired by the company. It also expanded its HVAC program to include more commercial training and added new equipment.

Beyond educating students, the college has worked to offer training for employees. It now offers expanded industrial, business and customized training in a variety of topics to local and regional companies, Barnhardt said.

“These courses will complement and expand our customizable training which we had previously offered,” he said. “Training courses are conducted on any of our three campuses, or can be arranged to be held at a local company site.”

With all the additions in programming and space, the college still remains affordable for many in the region. Northern was ranked the second most affordable community college in the state last year.

“We pride ourselves on offering affordable, high quality education for all who wish to learn,” Barnhardt said.

In addition, about 83 percent of students in the college who apply for financial aid receive it, Barnhardt said. In 2018, the college awarded 226 scholarships totaling $282,373, with $50,000 of that money going toward scholarships for welding and petroleum technology students.

Barnhardt added that the college has a robust student life on campus. It offers numerous events each month, such as a “Chicken Fest” with free food honoring its mascot, open mic events, movies, nacho and ice cream bars and others. Northern also offers a variety of organizations for students to get involved in, from student government to an astronomy club, he said.


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