Pierpont Community & Technical College Highlighted Nationally by the White House Council of Economic Advisers

Pierpont Community & Technical College Highlighted Nationally by the White House Council of Economic Advisers

Pierpont Community & Technical College Highlighted Nationally by the White House Council of Economic Advisers
 
Fairmont, WV- Pierpont Community & Technical College has received national praise from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) for its innovative workforce reskilling programs offered at the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center in Bridgeport, West Virginia.  The report outlines the importance of reskilling America’s workers for the jobs being created from the evolving nature of work that is transforming the face of the labor market, resulting in changes in the skills American employers need, as well as new and different opportunities for American workers.
 
The White House Council of Economic Advisers highlighted Pierpont Community and Technical College’s aviation programs as a national model for innovative workforce retraining. The Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center is an example of a successful collaboration between a community college, industry, and Federal grant programs to create workforce opportunities for both young, inexperienced students, as well as more experienced workers who may have been displaced from their previous occupation or are seeking new opportunities.
 
The Aerospace Center attracts experienced workers coming from other industries such as the military, coal, construction, or oil and gas. Approximately 46 percent of the Aviation Center’s student body is comprised of workers seeking vocational retraining, as opposed to recent high school graduates. To meet the diverse needs of such students, the Aerospace Center offers two different programs. Those in the two-year associate’s program leave with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificate, allowing them to work within the field worldwide. Students who enroll in the shorter eight-week program typically become apprentices for aviation companies, which may eventually lead to other credentials and employment in the aviation field, albeit generally without nationwide portability.
 
The Aerospace Center is in close proximity to local establishments of major aerospace companies, such as Pratt & Whitney and Bombardier. The Center maintains close relationships with these companies, which have direct input in the Aviation Center’s training program, ensuring that the program meets labor market needs so students graduate with in-demand skills. The curriculum is governed by FAA-approved coursework but also encompasses a general education program that offers supports ranging from basic writing and math training to public speaking and digital literacy.
 
The proximity of students to employers allows the program to integrate a built-in apprenticeship model, through which students gain professional experience by working directly with nearby employers. While CEA is unaware of in-depth reviews of the program’s outcomes, the Center affirms that such apprenticeship opportunities, and the location of the Aviation Center itself, contribute to the program’s placement rate, which is close to 100 percent.
 
The Aerospace Center operates through various sources of funding, which allows it to keep tuition costs relatively low. The program receives funding from student tuition as well as through the Perkins Act, State revenue, and local government contributions, as well as grants, including a recent $1 million Federal POWER grant to purchase updated equipment and continue to recruit and train former coal miners and other coal industry workers throughout the state.
 
Pierpont’s Aerospace Center not only offers displaced workers the opportunity to gain new skills and re-enter the workforce, but it aims to transition them to a well-paying industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, aircraft mechanics in West Virginia earn $53,940, on average, far higher than the average state income of $40,250.
 
Community colleges like Pierpont in partnership with local industries offer some of the most innovative reskilling programs in the United States. These programs have the advantage of addressing a localized skills gap jointly determined by industry and education institutions in the absence of a national survey of skills gaps that would identify these specialized skills as areas of great national need.
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