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Model Workforce Development Partnership Announced for Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia

September 2005


ZANESVILLE, OHIO, September 22, 2005—Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope and Ohio Governor Bob Taft, ARC's 2005 states' co-chair, today announced a new partnership with American Electric Power (AEP) and a consortium of community colleges to develop a workforce training program that prepares workers with the technical skills needed for the growing number of jobs available in the utility industry in Appalachia.

"There is a pending shortage of technical and skilled labor in the utilities industry in Appalachia," said Pope. "Leveraging public and private resources through initiatives like this greatly improves our ability to match up the Region's supply of skilled labor with the demands of the Region's private industry."

The announcement was made at a field meeting of the President's Interagency Coordinating Council on Appalachia at Zane State College in Zanesville, Ohio. The meeting took place against the backdrop of Appalachia's shifting economic base and the unexpected demands on local resources as many communities across the Region open their doors to evacuees in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The meeting was moderated by Pope and featured U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration Mason M. Bishop in a roundtable discussion with community college presidents and other regional leaders. They explored ways in which federal, state, and local governments; industry; and community colleges can work together to improve educational and training opportunities for students and workers.

"Providing access to local education and training opportunities is crucial to a community's workforce and a region's economic development potential," said Taft. "This partnership takes important steps to connect workers with the technical skills they need to succeed on the job."

Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, a longtime supporter of ARC's work, called the partnership "a great step in strengthening the economic base and workforce in Appalachia. Creating programs at area colleges to train area residents in emerging technology fields will help ready our communities for the changing nature of Appalachia's economic base. I am pleased that AEP is teaming up with local community colleges. Perhaps their foresight and work can be a model for future partnerships in the Region."

"The opportunities on the horizon from this public-private partnership are great news for the people of Appalachia," said Ohio Senator George Voinovich, also a long-standing supporter of ARC's mission in the Region. "The quality of a community's workforce is a key factor in gauging its competitiveness. Because so many of the jobs being created in high-growth industries require skills beyond the high school level, locally available education and training opportunities are becoming an ever more important measure of an area's economic development potential. Community colleges have always provided a vital education for the people of Ohio, but the cooperation of local workers and community colleges to provide tangible technical training is necessary for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life in southeast Ohio."

The goal of this project is to build a model for effective, locally sustainable partnerships among the public and private sectors, local workers, and community colleges to increase the number of workers qualified for jobs in high-growth industries. In Appalachia and other parts of the country, the utility and power-generation industry will continue to be a significant source of quality jobs for the foreseeable future.

The utilities industry employs over 23,000 workers in the Appalachian Region. It is estimated that 80 percent of that workforce will be eligible for retirement within the next decade, including about half of all workers in non-management jobs requiring specialized skills or technical training.

Ohio Congressman Robert W. Ney stated that "job creation and economic development must be one of our country's highest priorities, and the Appalachian Regional Commission has long played a critical role in this effort. I applaud ARC for this new partnership and will continue to be a very strong advocate for its mission in the halls of Congress."

"The challenge is to create a sustainable partnership between the utility industry and community colleges and their communities to provide the workforce necessary to keep our critical power-production and energy-delivery infrastructure functioning safely, efficiently, and reliably," said Jane A. Harf, vice president of external affairs for AEP Ohio.

Development and start-up costs for the project will leverage a grant of $150,000 from ARC, with an additional $75,000 in financial and in-kind contributions by AEP, Zane State, and other participating colleges. The consortium will be anchored by Zane State College in Zanesville, Ohio, in partnership with community colleges in Kentucky and West Virginia.

An organizational meeting between staff from AEP, Zane State, and other project partners will take place at Zane State, with the goal of having the first certificate program organized in time for the start of term in January 2006. This project expands on the foundation of a successful workforce development program developed by AEP and West Virginia State Community and Technical College.

AEP is one of the nation's largest electric utilities, with more than 5 million customers linked to the company's 11-state electricity transmission and distribution grid. Based in Columbus, Ohio, AEP employs over 20,000 U.S. workers.