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Unpacking the Role Community and Technical Colleges Play in W.Va.'s Economic Growth

Jessica Leake
Blue Ridge Community and Technical College
(left to right) Leslie See, Vice Pres. of Enrollment Management at Blue Ridge, Molly Cox, current Blue Ridge student, Sandy Hamilton, Executive Director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, and Jacob Calo, Blue Ridge graduate.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting held a community outreach event Tuesday night at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg to discuss the future of jobs in the Eastern Panhandle.

One of West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s organizational goals is to help facilitate an ongoing statewide conversation about job opportunities in West Virginia – what jobs are out there and what are the barriers to getting them?

It’s no secret that the Eastern Panhandle has experienced an economic boom compared to the rest of the state -- and that the region sees population growth each year. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t struggles for some.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s job-focused panel discussion on Wednesday night brought together four locals who shared their own experiences on workforce development needs and goals.

Jacob Calo is 25 years old and has four degrees from Blue Ridge Community and Technical College. One is in cyber security. Calo spoke about the benefits of attending a CTC, but he said one of the biggest barriers after graduation was finding out where the jobs are and whether he could remain in West Virginia.

“There needs to be more of a conversation about what’s locally available and what’s available for people who have at least entry-level experience, you know, just to get their foot in the door,” he said.

Calo said after several searches and rejections, he found an IT-related job in Kearneysville, but said he may seek work in Washington, DC later on.

Sandy Hamilton, Executive Director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, was also on the panel. She said from her vantage point, the future of jobs in the Eastern Panhandle will mostly be in manufacturing and warehouse distribution fields and will only require a degree from a community and technical college.

She said having partnerships with local CTCs for training opportunities make the region an appealing place for future employers.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting received a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to help advance education and career readiness in West Virginia. We are working with community partners throughout the state to assess workforce challenges and opportunities, and to produce content highlighting individuals as they pursue a variety of pathways leading to high-demand jobs and livable wages.

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