ARC awards nearly $1 million for in-demand training program

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center (MAMC) and partner Mountwest Community & Technical College nearly $1 million to launch a new career skills training program to meet pressing industry needs.

Pending final approval by the Higher Learning Commission, MAMC and Mountwest will offer the SMART (Systems Maintenance, Automation and Robotics Technology) Program in Cabell and Mason counties beginning in fall 2024, thanks to the ARC grant, part of $54 million awarded last month through the POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) initiative.

Funding for the $1.14 million SMART initiative includes $995,677 from the ARC, $120,000 from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and $25,000 from the Just Transition Fund.

Students in the new program will earn industry skill sets, a certificate of applied science, an associate of applied science degree and micro credentials through the Marshall University Skills Exchange. Classes will be offered at the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center and Mountwest in Huntington and at the Marshall University Mid-Ohio Valley Center in Point Pleasant.

“We worked closely with 26 area manufacturers to plan this training initiative,” said Derek Scarbro, MAMC director. “Since then, we’ve heard from many other manufacturers who encouraged us to create such a program in advanced automated production processes to fill a critical gap in the workforce supply chain.”

MAMC is developing the SMART curriculum in collaboration with partners at Mountwest, as well as Mason and Cabell County Schools. MAMC and Mountwest will collaboratively provide instruction and recruit students for the program. Students will earn certificates or degrees from Mountwest by taking industry training and courses in general education.

“The partnership between Mountwest and MAMC to deliver quality education to our community has been long standing, and we are excited to introduce the SMART program to our region,” said Dr. Joshua Baker, president of Mountwest. “The mission of Mountwest is to empower students to learn and lead in the community and workforce; the SMART program is a key contribution to furthering our mission.”

Other partners include Region II Workforce Investment Board, Region II Planning & Development Council, the Mason County Development Authority, Cabell County Schools and Mason County Schools.

Mason and Cabell County Schools plan to offer dual credit opportunities for high school students. In addition, the Mason County Community Foundation and Jackson Family Foundation have pledged to provide scholarship funding to support eligible enrollees.

We’re proud to partner with the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center and Mountwest Community and Technical College to bring the SMART program to our region,” said Dr. Ryan Saxe, superintendent of Cabell County Schools. “This initiative aligns with our district’s mission to deliver an engaging curriculum that prepares students for college and career success. With the SMART program, we are taking a significant step towards achieving our goal of expanding post-secondary opportunities.

We are grateful for the opportunity to work together with the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center and Mountwest Community and Technical College to meet the needs of our students and schools.”

Mason County Schools Superintendent Tim Hardesty echoed Saxe’s enthusiasm.

“Mason County Schools is excited to collaborate with the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center to address a void in the workforce, especially as we experience the continued growth throughout the region,” said Hardesty. “This collaborative program will bring exciting new opportunities to our students and assist them in acquiring the skills needed to be competitive in the job market.”

Scarbro said the regional partnership will ensure that West Virginia’s growing manufacturing base has the skilled talent it needs while providing students with additional opportunities to pursue rewarding careers close to home.

“The MAMC mission is not just to train people, but prepare them for good-paying, in-demand jobs,” Scarbro said. “We engage with manufacturers across West Virginia to evaluate their workforce needs. More and more say industrial maintenance and automation are the skill sets they most need. We have identified the need, now we are going to deliver the needed training.”

SMART is the latest initiative by MAMC to expand its manufacturing career skills programs to meet critical workforce needs. MAMC also partners with Mountwest to offer Machinist Technology/CNC and Welding Technology programs, which recently added new January classes to increase the pipeline of skilled talent. MAMC also opened a new Advanced Manufacturing Training Center this summer in South Charleston to expand service in the Kanawha Valley region.

“We’re just getting started,” Scarbro said. “A strong manufacturing base requires a well-educated workforce. We’re committed to responding quickly to meet the needs of our growing manufacturing base here in West Virginia. Toward that end, we expect to announce additional new workforce training partnerships and initiatives later this year.”

Oct. 30, 2023

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