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Training center celebrates new home

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house at 1 p.m. Friday to celebrate the opening of the new home of the Regulatory Training Center in South Charleston.

The center is on the site of the old Edison Elementary School.

"We've torn down part of the school, remodeled part and built a new part," said Beverly Jarrett, executive director.

The blend of remodeling and new construction cost a total of about $1 million.

"The part we remodeled was the library and the office area of the school, which they built in the 1960s," Jarrett said. "The oldest part of the school, which was built in the 1930s, is what we tore down. It was an eyesore and a safety hazard.

"The only part of the original building from the 1930s that we kept was the stairwell. We thought, 'If we tear it down, we'll have to build another.' So we chose to keep

it. We didn't anticipate the lead paint."

Because of the lead paint issue plus some roof and

  • tructural problems, the new center wasn't finished until August - about five months later than expected.
  • The center is an unusual entity in that it is owned by the Kanawha County school system but receives all of its approximately $1 million in annual revenue - including the money needed for its new home - from fees it charges private industry for safety training.

    Safety training for school personnel, vocational school students and the South Charleston fire and police departments is provided at no charge, Jarrett said.

    Jarrett said that in the early 1990s she was working at what is now Bayer CropScience's Institute Plant. "We were having a lot of contractors come into the plant,"

  • he recalled. "The plant
  • manager said, 'They have a way of training these contractors in the Texas Gulf area that works.' They sent

    me down there to research how they did their safety training.

    "I came back, made a presentation, and we at the plant decided to promote the training center idea. We had to get other plant managers involved and agree to go along. Everyone decided it was a good thing for the Kanawha Valley.

    "We needed a neutral entity to provide the training," she recalled. "We asked the Kanawha County schools if they would be willing to take on this project."

    Dr. Jorea Marple, who was superintendent of county schools at the time and who is now West Virginia superintendent of schools, "thought it was a great idea. She had the vision. It was a stretch for the school system. She took a chance."

    Bill Raglin was a department head at the Institute plant back then and is a longtime member of the Kanawha County Board of Education. "He was a big supporter of this from the get-go and still is," Jarrett said.

    Although the idea won key support, "the Kanawha County schools didn't have any money to put into it," Jarrett said. Dr. Diana Long, who was the schools' coordinator of services to business and industry then and who is now director of workforce development at the Rahall Transportation Institute, wrote a $200,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant "that got us going."

    "We asked the plants to kick in time so we had people from the plants help us build the safety programs and furnish the site," Jarrett recalled. "We got a lot of file cabinets, desks and training tables from Union Carbide Corp. That was their in-kind contribution. The $200,000 grant lasted two years and kept us going until our business picked up and we could generate enough money

    to pay our instructors' salaries."

    Jarrett said that although she loved her job at Institute, she applied to manage the training center.

    "I got the job on June 30, 1994, and that's when we started the training center," she said. Jarrett has a master's in occupational safety and health and a master's in training and development. "I've been able to use the things I learned in school and things I learned in the plant to make a difference in the school system," she said.

    In addition to her role as executive director of the center, Jarrett is executive director of safety for the school system. "The center is the schools' safety office as well as where we do the training," she explained.

    "We've now been in business 18 years. It's been a wonderful service to the Kanawha County schools and to businesses and industry in our area as well as in other areas of the country."

    Prior to the center's establishment, the school system "really didn't have a professional safety person on staff," she said. "We've been able to provide that so we could make a difference for the school system. We've gotten the system's workers' compensation insurance rates down. We're definitely a leader in the state and probably the country."

    The center has 6 full- and 9 part-time employees. "Everyone is specialized in the

    field they're teaching,"

    Jarrett said. "Many of

    the part-timers come from chemical plants or refineries - they've worked in safety jobs and come to me fully trained.

    "We do training for plant people but the bulk of our work is for the contractors who are going into these plants and refineries."

    Additional information about the center is posted at www.rtc4safety.com/.

    Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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