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Associate Degrees For Trade Apprentices Discussed At Legislative Interims

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Becca Schimmel
/
Ohio Valley ReSource

Students in trade apprentice programs can now earn associate degrees while they study and work.

George Capel, director of government relations for the state’s Building and Construction Trades Council told the legislature’s committee for Labor and Worker Safety Issues that making these degrees more accessible is a selling point for trade apprentices. The comments were made during an interim meeting Tuesday morning.

“We can look at a potential applicant and tell them, ‘Look, not only are you going to get this apprenticeship education, by going through this program, you're also going to come out with an associate's degree,’” Capel said.

Capel said these education programs would affect, on average, 2,500 trade students in the state, 500 of which graduate each year.

Discussions included roadblocks and technicalities preventing potential students from receiving these degrees. Representatives from trade organizations spoke to the commission about the potential to work with the legislature on funding and accessibility in the future, particularly relating to West Virginia Invests and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

West Virginia Invests is a financial aid program that covers tuition for associate degree programs. Apprentices can receive around $20,000 through WV Invests to cover a four-year program.

Everett Johnson, training director for the West Virginia Carpenter Training Center, said filling out student aid forms should be made easier for young students who are living independently.

“We had people that just couldn't get the FAFSA filled out,” Johnson said. “As much as we tried to educate their parents, they weren't going to fill out the paperwork for a student loan. That's what they thought it was. And it wasn't just filling out FAFSA. There were a lot of people that just didn't get funded because their parents refused to do it.”

Another example given by Johnson involved making these degree programs more accessible for those involved in the military.

“We did have a young man that was in my program, and I couldn't believe it happened, but he was disqualified from the degree program, because he was on active duty,” Johnson said. “He couldn’t make his community service, which in my opinion, if you're going to serve in the military on active duty, you have given the ultimate community service.”

Matt Turner of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission said the state needs to have 60 percent of its population to have a post-secondary credential if the state’s current economic status is to be sustained by 2030.

“We've got a long, long way to go,” Turner said.

Eastern Panhandle Reporter, ssnyder@wvpublic.org, 304-449-4653

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