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Energy company donates to state education system

By Whitney Burdette, Capitol reporter

A Texas-based energy company has made a $250,000 investment in West Virgina’s Community and Technical College System.

Representatives from Noble Energy presented a check Wednesday to the CTC system, saying the gift would improve not only the education system, but also the economy and growing Marcellus shale industry.

“Clearly we have a long-term future plan in West Virginia,” said Gary Willinghamn, senior vice president for Noble Energy’s U.S. Onshore Region. “But without a skilled work force, our plans are meaningless. We’re investing in that work force today through this gift.”

James Skidmore, chancellor of the Community and Technical College System, said Noble Energy has played a significant role in the development of a curriculum geared toward the oil and natural gas industry. The Appalachian Petroleum Technology Training Center, which offers training for students interested in the oil and natural gas industry and is housed at Pierpont and Northern community and technical colleges, was established with the help of Noble Energy, Skidmore said.

“Noble has gone above and beyond its financial donation today,” Skidmore said. “They have worked with us from the very beginning to develop the program and their input has been vital to us and to the folks that work with this program in developing the skills they say their workers are going to need to be successful.”

The initial purpose of the center, Skidmore said, is to give the oil and gas companies working in North Central West Virginia a skilled, local work force. When Marcellus Shale first began in earnest a couple of years ago, companies faced criticism for hiring out-of-state workers. But Skidmore hopes the center, with the help of Noble’s donation, will change that.

“I hope within the next year or so you have our students out there on your rigs,” Skidmore said to Noble representatives.

Doreen Larson, president of Pierpont, said the school is grateful for the donation for the endorsement it represents in the training program.

“We do give you our word — you will have high quality workers of which you can be proud,” Larson said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said as the industry grows, the education system should target middle schoolers and let them know what careers are available in oil and natural gas. The training center, one of 14 in the country, and Project Ascent, which aims to bring an ethane cracker plant to the state, are just two ways to open the industry to younger workers.

“When Marcellus shale drilling first started about three and a half years ago, there were a lot of complaints that companies were not hiring West Virginians. The thing of it was, we were not prepared. With programs like this, and with the help of Noble Energy and their contribution to the two community colleges, we’ll have graduates coming out of the community colleges with the kinds of skills these companies need. It took us a little bit of time, but we’re really concentrating a lot of effort on it.”

Tomblin said the CTC system has added 133 programs geared toward work force training, many of which are focused on the oil and natural gas industry.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.


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