Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College has formed partnerships and expanded its programs over the past year, and is looking forward to an upgrade of its performing arts center.
In March, Southern President Dr. Pamela L. Alderman signed an agreement with West Governors University. After graduating from Southern, the partnership will allow students to obtain their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Southern will serve as the first step followed by an easy transition to WGU, director of communications Bill France said.
WGU is a nonprofit, online university founded in 1997 by a bipartisan group of 19 US governors. It is the nation’s first accredited competency-based university, accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. There are currently more than 136,000 WGU students nationwide and more than 254,000 WGU graduates located throughout all 50 states.
WGU’s Central Region consists of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.
“Community colleges exist to open doors and create new opportunities,” Alderman said. “The savings that students can realize by beginning at a community college and transferring are outstanding, and we are continuing to work to ensure that students have a positive experience once they transfer. We could not be prouder to partner with WGU in providing an affordable, accessible and quality education. ”
In addition to its new partnership, Southern has expanded and added programs recently, France said. The school recently added a Commercial Drivers License program and plans to bring back its cosmetology program, he said.
“There’s a demand right now for CDL drivers. We have our first class now. There’s a whole lot of interest, “France said.
There also has been a great deal of interest in the cosmetology program, France said.
“Not only will it be teaching the basics of cutting hair and grooming, there’s going to be a business component to it as well so these folks can manage their own shops,” he said.
Another recent addition to the school’s list of programs provides students with an opportunity to explore the adventurous field of line work, France said. Line workers construct and maintain power delivery systems, and France said Southern is hoping to fill a demand in the area.
A line worker job would be a good fit for someone who likes to get outside, roll up their sleeves and work with tools and equipment, France said. The job entails a bit of adventure, as line workers respond to and correct problems with the power delivery system at all hours and in all weather conditions.
While a typical workday generally runs from 7 am to 3:30 pm, line workers are on call 24/7, ready to step in and help when needed. While there are challenges, the job comes with the satisfaction of being a community hero when it’s time to restore power during an outage, France said.
There are plenty of opportunities for advancement in the field, France said. Apprentice line workers earn around $ 40,000, while journeymen earn upwards of $ 80,000 and crew leaders around $ 85,000.
Southern’s new electrical lineman instructor, Charles Isaacs, brings knowledge and experience to the program. He worked 18 years for Appalachian Power Company. Isaacs spent 14 years at Duke Energy Florida serving as a certified master electrician, journeyman line crew supervisor and resource manager.
Southern has also expanded programs in recent months, including its nursing program. Nursing is in-demand more than ever due to the strains placed on the medical community by COVID-19, France said.
The school received $ 985,000 through West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s Nursing Workforce Expansion Program. The program is designed to address the state’s nursing shortage through a multifaceted approach to attract, train and retain nurses in the Mountain State.
Part of the approach involved establishing an award program to fund nursing program expansion projects at colleges, universities, schools of nursing and career technical education centers across West Virginia.
Southern is using its award to expand its nursing program with an accelerated weekend program.
“That is going to benefit so many people that already have degrees for LPNS that are going to be able to basically come in on weekends and become registered nurses through us,” France said.
The investment is expected to support up to 20 new nursing students.
“This will provide a great opportunity for our students, but it will also fill a gap in the nursing shortage in our region,” Alderman said.
In addition to its roster of programs, Southern is also paying attention to its physical assets, France said. There is an ongoing effort to raise funds to pay for improvements to the Savas Kostas Performing Arts Center.
The Southern Foundation recently sponsored a production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and raised $ 15,000 to help fund upgraded sound, lighting and curtains at the decades-old facility.
“It’s a beautiful facility, but we need new sound and lighting,” France said.
France, who was director of the production, said the show was an overwhelming success.
“We were lucky to have so many businesses partners with us for this show. They allowed us to raise the bar and produce a show that the college and the community could be proud of, ”France said.
The play featured Southern employees, students and members of the local community all volunteering their time and talent.
The set was designed by France and built by a local carpenter and owner of Unique Kitchens, Chris Erlewine. The show had actors and crew members from all area theater companies working together. Over its four-day run, 1,600 people attended the show.
“I was blown away by how professional this production turned out,” Alderman said. “It was top-notch in every way. Bill, his cast and the crew worked very hard on this show, and it showed on stage. The audiences loved every minute of it. ”
The Southern Foundation has several other fundraisers scheduled this spring and fall, including a September gala in honor of George and Elizabeth Kostas, the namesakes of the theater.
Southern recently received recognition in a survey by the “Great Colleges to Work For” program.
The results were released in a special insert of the Chronicle of Higher Education and are based on a survey of 196 colleges and universities. In all, 70 of the 196 institutions achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition for specific best practices and policies.
The college won honors in faculty experience, confidence in senior leadership, professional development, mission and pride, and job satisfaction and support. Southern was also named to the Great Colleges Honor Roll, a status granted to only 42 colleges each year that are highlighted most across the recognition categories.
The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institution questionnaire that captured employment data and workplace policies from each institution and a survey administered to faculty, administrators and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.