Peaks and Valleys: Officials and Entrepreneurs Look to West Virginia’s Workforce Needs | News, sports, jobs

Peaks and Valleys: Officials and Entrepreneurs Look to West Virginia’s Workforce Needs |  News, sports, jobs


Steve White, left, director of West Virginia Affiliate Construction Trading, inspects a welding test at the 667 International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 667 apprenticeship facility in Winfield. (Photo by Stephen Allen Adams)

White Sulfur Springs West Virginia has a good problem, but the problem regardless: With new businesses arriving in the state and major proposed construction projects on the horizon, there will be enough workers to fill needed jobs.
“My biggest concern is to have the workforce to provide the demand that people want and what we can do. That’s what we should be able to do,” US Senator Joe Manchin said, DW.Va. , to a ballroom at the Greenbrier Resort on Thursday for the 86th Annual Meeting of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Business Summit.
“We’re going to have to hire a lot of workers in West Virginia,” Follow Mansion. We do not own them, nor can we produce them from within. We have to go out and get them. This is where they should come.”
“Things I hear almost all the time are inflation concerns, supply chain concerns, workforce concerns scattered across the state and country,” US Senator Shelley Moore Capito, said later the same day at a business summit. This week alone, Seattle-based electric boat manufacturer Pure Watercraft announced that it will set up a facility in Brooke County to build electric pontoon boats and create 100 jobs. California-based Sparkz has announced that it will build an electric battery plant in Taylor County near Bridgeport and create 350 jobs. Work continues on site with North Carolina-based steelmaker Nucor. The company is building an electric arc furnace steel plant in Mason County. When construction begins in earnest at the end of the year or early 2023, it will need 200 jobs to start and up to 2,000 jobs during the peak construction period. Nucor announced the new plant in January. State officials are working to obtain approval from the US Department of Energy to establish a regional hydrogen center to produce blue hydrogen derived from the state’s abundant natural gas supplies and use carbon capture and sequestration to pump greenhouse gases underground. If approved, the mega project would employ thousands of construction workers over a period of years.
“I am very optimistic about the construction industry in West Virginia,” said Steve White, director of Affiliate Construction Trading in West Virginia. “There is a lot of money going to the much-needed solid infrastructure that is overdue. There will be a lot of roads, bridges, pipelines, etc., but there is more. There are some great opportunities, like hydrogen center, carbon sequestration, which It could lead to gas-fired power plants.
“These are the great job creators and there is a great opportunity for our state, but opportunity does not mean that it will happen,” Follow White. “We really need our leaders to focus on and get these great opportunities for our local residents.”
Work Pains According to West Virginia’s Economic Outlook for 2022-2026, published by West Virginia University’s Office of Business and Economics Research at the John Chambers School of Business and Economics, the state is expected to see modest growth in construction jobs over the next day. several years. The report’s authors cite several highway construction projects, such as the $210 million I-70 Bridge Repair and Replacement Program in Ohio County. The authors also cite several federal projects funded through the CARES Act, the US Bailout Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“…Growth will be stronger during the first half of the five-year forecast horizon thanks to increased federal and state infrastructure spending and healthy demand for new homes,” mentioned the report. The report’s authors see improved potential for new jobs in the manufacturing and energy sectors, especially in manufacturing industries that could benefit from increased natural gas production.
“…other factors bode well for future manufacturing activity and offer significant upward potential,” mentioned the report. “For example, the energy sector is expected to rebound in the near term and should generate an increase in payroll and business activity for machinery, manufactured metals and various other manufacturers with increased production of coal, natural gas and natural gas liquids over the next two years.”
West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.7%, up from a historic low of 3.5% in May but still very low, meaning those looking for work are finding jobs. But according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, West Virginia still has the worst labor force participation rate in the country at 55.2%. This is up from a pandemic low of 52.7% in April 2020 where the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, but still down from 56.2% in May 2009 as the nation was sliding into the Great Recession caused by the housing market crash. The labor force participation rate measures the number of people who are employed or looking for work versus those who have dropped out of the entire workforce. Another factor that can affect the number of workers needed for current and future projects is competition for those jobs from other countries. The Associated Press reported in August that construction projects in Ohio, including an Intel semiconductor manufacturing plant that could employ more than 3,000 people by 2025.
“Labour leaders and state officials acknowledge that there is currently no pool of 7,000 additional workers in central Ohio, where other current projects include a 28-story Hilton hotel near downtown Columbus, a $2 billion addition to the Ohio State University Medical Center, and 365 Million dollar Amgen bio-manufacturing plant not far from Intel’s plant,” The article mentioned. Working out: Brian Dayton is vice president of policy and advocacy at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Speaking Thursday after the morning sessions of the Business Summit, Dayton said workforce issues are primarily on the minds of small businesses and large manufacturers alike.
“It’s something that absolutely needs to be addressed,” Dayton said. We’re having a labor shortage here, but it’s not just in West Virginia. It is at the national level. It really increases the pressure to make sure that we provide quality training to our workers.”
West Virginia has attempted to work on these issues over the past few years. The West Virginia Invests Scholarship Program established by the Legislature in 2019 is the latest dollar program that covers the cost of high-demand associate degree programs once all federal grants and tuition aid have been exhausted. The Blue Ribbon Task Force, set up by Governor Jim Justice last year, issued recommendations in February for a single portal for residents to sign up for services, including job training, integrating job training services across state agencies, and incentives for employers to work with state agencies to find and train workers for them. In June, Al-Adl appointed a workforce resilience officer to implement the task force’s recommendations.
“Everyone gather,” Dayton said. “We realize we have challenges, but people are working hard to address that and make sure that we train workers to take on the jobs that will be available. These are good paying jobs to come… They will be great opportunities, but we need to make sure that the workers are there.”
One group that has been excluded from the governor’s workforce planning is union workers. For example, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 667 has a statewide apprenticeship program located in Winfield under the John Amos Power Plant. Boiler makers work on a variety of projects, from power plant infrastructure to chemical plants, and from petroleum to nuclear power. On a tour of his apprenticeship facility last week, White said the apprenticeship program for boilermakers is paid by union members and is free, and provides a mix of classroom instruction, hands-on training, and on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced professionals. Meowon. White said he would like to see labor unions enter the workforce conversation, including creating partnerships between high school trade school programs and allowing union members to get their own apprenticeship toward credits at a two-year community and technical college. White said the professions face the same problems with including workers in their apprenticeship programmes.
“I am fully confident in our ability to provide the required workforce,” White said. “We have the best training facilities, infrastructure, trainers, bricks and mortar. We don’t have enough trainees. We can absorb more if we have more jobs to assign. The key is jobs to put the trainees on. We can take the unemployed and the unemployed, and give them great skills.” And we get a big salary. This opportunity is before us.”
Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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