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Wetzel County Celebrates Opening Of Tech Center

October 10, 2018

The area's latest pride and joy - The Wetzel County Technical Education Center (WCTEC) - was on display the evening of Oct. 8 as Wetzel County Schools held a ribbon cutting an open house at the 2213 Mountaineer Highway, New Martinsville location.

The center, now offering a welding program to high school and college students, is the fruition of a collaborative effort among Wetzel County Schools, Wetzel County Northern Community College, and the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber donated $50,000 toward the endeavor, while WVNCC presented a check in the amount of $65,000. The center offers welding classes to high school students during the day, while WVNCC students have the opportunity to partake in the coursework during the evenings and weekends.

WCTEC Director Amanda McPherson said the center would focus on "educating students today for tomorrow's careers." She said she was "so excited" to be director of the center.

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West Virginia Northern Community Colllege’s Mike Koon presents a check in the amount of $65,000 to Wetzel County Technical Education Center (WCTEC) Director Amanda McPherson and Wetzel County Schools Superintendent Ed Toman.

McPherson said she was approached about the director's position in April. From there, she worked to gather information necessary to make the idea a reality.

McPherson, along with Vocational Education Director Tammy Wells, met with Larry Tackett, West Virginia Northern's Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development, as well as representatives of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce and Congressman David McKinley. The entities discussed the need and impact of the center on the area. Then, Wetzel County Schools sought the help of the maintenance department and Maintenance Supervisor Jamie Doty in order to prepare the facility.

"Without Jamie and his crew, there is no chance the center would've been ready," McPherson noted.

McPherson added how amazing it was to watch the transformation of the facility over the course of a few months, noting differences could be seen in a span of morning to evening.

McPherson explained the various tasks the maintenance crew handled, such as the installation of welding booths, new LED lighting, electrical wiring, and the transfer of the the county head start program, which was located at the 2213 Mountaineer Highway building. This program is now located at Magnolia High School.

The WCTEC currently has 12 Wetzel County high school students enrolled in the center's welding program. McPherson noted, ideally, the 12 juniors currently enrolled will enroll in the center's afternoon welding classes next year. Twelve new juniors will enroll in the morning coursework next year. She said the program does offer a NCCER certificate.

Wetzel County Schools Superintendent Ed Toman thanked all entities and individuals involved in the fruition of the WCTEC. He credited former board of education members Mike Blair and Joshua Balcerek, who also played a role in the center. Toman also credited current board president Warren Grace, who also supported the establishment of the center. Toman also noted assistant superintendent Shane Highley, who supported the development of the center.

Grace recognized McPherson, stating "She is the person responsible for this."

Grace added, "I didn't know if we would get this done," but he recognized McPherson and Highley, stating "To have two really good people that's what we have. The strength of Wetzel County Schools has always been personnel."

Board Vice President Bill Jones stated the location was once a "great vocational tech center, and our dreams are that it can become one of the Ohio Valley's best again." We are so proud of everyone."

Don Riggenbach, president of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce, noted Wetzel County Schools "took the bull by the horns" and made the center happen. However, he noted, "the spark for them to think hard about this started with the chamber of commerce."

Riggenbach said the chamber had funds it wanted to use toward entrepreneurship. "We want to create jobs. That is what the chamber of commerce is all about."

Riggenbach said Tackett and himself, along with the chamber's executive director Sharon Thomas, collaborated on what they could do with the extra funds. "We thought about maybe starting a welding center or some sort of regional organization that would teach welding to our kids."

Riggenbach said Superintendent Toman heard about the endeavor and took the idea to the board of education. "He found out they were 100 percent behind it."

Riggenbach said the chamber board voted to give $50,000 toward a regional welding program or career center. "When Ed found out about it, and the rest of the board, they took the bull by the horns and have run with it, and we are so pleased to see this operating. I didn't think you could do it by fall, because it was spring when we were talking about it, and nothing was done."

Highley himself noted, "Everyone talks about dreams. There are two ways to make it come true - hard work and good people, and that's what we have. I grew up in a family of welders. I had not interest, so I just helped open up a welding center."

The Wetzel County Schools administrators continued applaud the schools' maintenance employees. Former board member Mike Blair noted, "You'd be astonished to know what these guys Your work never went unnoticed."

Superintendent Toman said Maintenance Supervisor Jamie Doty was a participant "back when we had the welding program back in 1991, and with these guys and their passion and will of wanting to get this started you guys were a huge difference."

Mike Koon, of WVNCC, noted he was honored to be present for the opening ceremony.

"It says a lot to our community. It says we recognize the economy is changing and the role that career technical education plays. I'm proud of what it means to the community we live in This will be a hallmark when it comes to educational infrastructure."

Koon noted that, previously, Dominion Energy, EQT, and Southwestern Energy had each invested into WVNCC to advance technical education. He noted Wetzel County's students could now take two years of welding at WCTEC and then advance to Northern to learn advanced skills. "We are real tickled with the process taken to make all this happen."

Monday's ceremony concluded with Marlin Hippensteel, a Hundred High School student, and two of his welding classmates, cutting through a piece of metal to mark the "ribbon cutting."



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