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Flexibility is key in new safety training center

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Work is half complete on a new technical and vocational training center at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston.

When construction is finished in November, the $15 million Advantage Valley Advance Technology Center will host a wide range of training programs for local community colleges and industries.

Jim Skidmore, chancellor of the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia, had his first tour of the project with architects and project engineers Wednesday morning.

He said officials had one word in mind when they designed the building.

"It was all about flexibility, flexibility, flexibility," Skidmore said.

The building will house the technology and workforce training programs for several community colleges in the area.

The day-to-day operations will be managed by Bridgemont and Kanawha Valley Community and Technical colleges, which will merge into one school later this year.

The 55,000-square-foot building will have flexible areas for the specialized training and certification programs needed by local chemical companies and power plants.

"This facility will be equipped to address practically any customized training need for employers in the region," Skidmore said.

Architect Todd Boggess of Princeton-based ETB Architects said he and other project officials met with local businesses to get their input on the design of the technical and industrial-use lab spaces.

"In working on the design, we met with local industries in the area to understand what their needs are from an educational and training standpoint," Boggess said.

One of the central features of the new building is an area on the building's first floor.

The space can be divided into three smaller rooms that can be tailored for any type of technical training program.

Equipment can be trucked in and set up for a six- to eight-week training course and then hauled out to make room for other classes.

While the facility will be run by the merged Bridgemont-Kanawha community college, the technology center won't be used exclusively by them.

Skidmore said at least five community and technical colleges are located within 90-minute drives of the center.

He said they would be able to work in partnership with the center, providing classes at their campuses through distance learning and online collaborative classrooms.

When students need to take part in training at the technical labs at the center, they can commute from their campuses.  

"That way we can offer programs and classes without duplicating the technology labs at the other sites," Skidmore said.

Officials are hoping to install the latest technology in the classrooms and computer labs.

Skidmore said they would set up what are known as collaborative classrooms, where students can use iPads or other tablet devices to share work on monitors at the front of the class.

He said programs and classroom technology would evolve with the latest innovations.

"We know the technology is going to change and we want to prepare to be flexible for those changes," he said.

Huntington-based Neighborgall Construction is the general contractor on the construction project. Dixon Electrical Systems of Huntington is wiring the building, West Virginia Heating and Plumbing is completing the plumbing and sprinkler system, and Ohio-based Smith and Oby is installing the heating, air conditioning and ventilation units.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-4836.



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