Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College has formed partnerships and expanded its programs over the past year, and is eagerly awaiting an upgrade to 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 earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Southern will serve as a first step followed by an easy transition to WGU, said communications director Bill France.
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 over 136,000 WGU students nationwide and over 254,000 WGU graduates distributed across all 50 states.
WGU’s central region includes Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania.
“Community colleges exist to open doors and create new opportunities,” Alderman said. “The savings students can realize by starting at a community college and transferring are exceptional, and we continue to work to ensure students have a positive experience once they transfer. We couldn’t be prouder to partner with WGU to provide affordable, accessible, and quality education.
In addition to its new partnership, Southern has recently expanded and added programs, France said. The school recently added a commercial driver’s license program and plans to bring back its cosmetology program, he said.
“There is a demand right now for CDL drivers. We have our first class now. There is a lot of interest,” France said.
The cosmetology program has also generated a lot of interest, France said.
“Not only will it teach the basics of haircutting and grooming, but there will also be a business component for these people to run their own shops,” he said.
Another recent addition to the school’s roster of programs offers students the opportunity to explore the adventurous realm of assembly line work, France said. Line workers build and maintain power distribution systems, and France said Southern hopes to meet demand in the region.
An assembly line worker position would be great for someone who likes to get outside, roll up their sleeves and work with tools and equipment, France said. The job involves a bit of adventure as line workers respond to and correct power system problems at all hours and in all weather conditions.
While a typical workday typically runs from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., line workers are available 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 laborers earn around $40,000, while journeypersons earn over $80,000 and lead hands around $85,000.
Charles Isaacs, Southern’s newest Powerline Instructor, brings his knowledge and experience to the program. He worked 18 years for Appalachian Power Company. Isaacs spent 14 years with Duke Energy Florida as a Certified Master Electrician, Line Mate Team Supervisor, and Resource Manager.
Southern has also expanded its programs in recent months, including its nursing program. Nursing is in greater demand than ever due to pressures placed on the medical community by COVID-19, France said.
The school received $985,000 through West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s Nursing Workforce Expansion Program. The program is designed to address the state’s nursing shortage through a multi-faceted approach to attracting, training, and retaining nurses in the Mountain State.
Part of the approach was to establish an awards program to fund nursing program expansion projects at colleges, universities, nursing schools, and career technical education centers across Virginia. -Western.
Southern is using its award to expand its nursing program with an accelerated weekend program.
“This is going to benefit so many people who already have credentials for LPNS who can basically come over the weekend 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 program slate, Southern also pays attention to its physical assets, France said. There is an ongoing effort to raise funds to pay for upgrades to 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 upgrades to sound, lighting and curtains at the decades-old facility.
“It’s a nice setup, but we need new sound and new lighting,” France said.
France, who was production manager, said the show was a smash hit.
“We were lucky to have so many partner companies with us for this show. They allowed us to raise the bar and produce a show that the college and 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 local carpenter and owner of Unique Kitchens, Chris Erlewine. The show had cast and crew members from every theater company in the area working together. Over its four days, 1,600 people attended the show.
“I was blown away by the professionalism of this production,” Alderman said. “It was top notch in every way. Bill, his cast and crew worked really hard on this show, and it showed on stage. The audience loved every minute of it.”
The Southern Foundation hosts several other fundraisers in the spring and fall, including a September gala honoring George and Elizabeth Kostas, the theater’s namesake.
Southern was recently recognized in a Great Colleges to Work For survey.
The findings were published in a special insert in the Chronicle of Higher Education and are based on a survey of 196 colleges and universities. A total of 70 of the 196 institutions earned Great College to Work For recognition for their specific best practices and policies.
The college won honors in Faculty Experience, Trust in Senior Leadership, Professional Development, Mission and Pride, and Job Satisfaction and Support. Southern has also been named to the Great College Honor Roll, a status granted each year to only 42 colleges that are most highlighted in recognition categories.
The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institution questionnaire that captures employment data and workplace policies from each institution, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators and professional support staff. The main factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.