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Job-Training Program In Southern W.Va. Marks 10-Year-Anniversary

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Roxy Todd/ WVPB
Colt Brogan and Crystal Snyder taking care of plants in a greenhouse in Lincoln County, 2016. Brogan and Snyder spent two-and-a-half years as farming apprentices with Refresh Appalachia, a job-training program with Coalfield Development.

Coalfield Development, a non-profit organization in southern West Virginia that works toward economic revitalization through new job training opportunities, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

Since 2010 the organization has trained over 1,200 people across the state.

The organization currently employs 34 full-time employees in West Virginia. It pairs on-the-job-training with time to pursue a college degree at a community college. Participants are also paid three hours a week to pursue personal development like life-skill training.

Someone who completes work commitments on the job for at least six months and earns at least four professional certifications is considered a graduate of Coalfield’s workforce program. Currently, about 70 percent of participants graduate.

Coalfield has invested in and owns over a dozen new businesses in the region, including a solar-installation company in Huntington, a woodshop in Wayne county, and Turnrow Farm Collective, which aggregates local produce and meats from across West Virginia. The organization has also provided financial support to an additional 30 businesses. 

Some critics of the organization have lodged complaints in the past, saying participants aren’t compensated well-enough or provided health insurance. The program now offers health and dental insurance, according to Brandon Dennison, Coalfield Development’s CEO.

“We’ve achieved significant and very tangible positive outcomes for the region, but what I’m proudest of is the fact we’ve done it from the ground up,” Dennison said. “We truly respect and listen to the people of Appalachia. We sincerely believe in this place and its people.”

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