ELKINS – The Randolph County Housing Authority hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of the new Learning Center site in the Beverly Five-lane neighborhood Wednesday afternoon.
Federal Appalachian Territorial Committee Co-Chair Gayle Manchin was the special guest, and she was joined by representatives from the offices of Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, RW.Va. and Governor Jim Justice. Also speaking at the event were Randolph County Development Authority Director Robbie Morris and Elkins City Mayor Jerry Marco.
The new facility, which is home to the RCHS workforce development program, STRIVE WV, is located in the former Fish and Wildlife Center next to Elkins Fordland.
Officials said the move from its previous location on Third Street in downtown Elkins was necessary because of the learning center’s continued expansion and growth.
“Today we appreciate the next step for the Randolph County Housing Authority in its ongoing work to help its neighbors, and that is the opening of a new learning center.” Gayle Manchin said. “The planning that has gone into this center is an excellent example of the importance of collaboration…
“This learning center is a great example of the variety of programs and activities people can participate in. Not just young people, but for those people looking to retrain, or move up to a higher career level.”
STRIVE WV offers free or low-cost vocational training courses for the healthcare, carpentry, forestry and construction heavy equipment operation, retail and hospitality trades.
The Randolph County Housing Authority began its first apprenticeship program in 2019 when it applied for and received a WORC 1 scholarship, which was funded through a partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission and the ETA Department of Labor.
With funding from a WORC 1 grant, RCHA developed a woodwork readiness class, which is still in operation to this day. The Get Ready for WoodWorking Class is a three-week course that includes soft skills training and hands-on apprenticeships through the West Virginia Wood Technology Center.
“RCHA is no stranger to workforce development, as we have had the YouthBuild program for over 25 years,” said Jennifer Griggs, program manager for the Randolph County Housing Authority’s Supportive Services Program. What’s new is that in 2019 we started developing programming for those over 18 years of age.
“We did this to help local hardwood manufacturers find workers, to bring short-term college workforce classes to Elkins. In small rural communities like Elkins, organizations have to step up when they see things in need. And that’s what RCHA did, they stepped up and said We have to find solutions to help our employers find these workers.”
Since developing the first apprenticeship program, STRIVE WV has expanded to offer nine different workforce training options. Recently, RCHA was awarded a Rural Workforce Program grant funded by the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration to expand targeted health instruction for the North Central WV program, which includes certification courses in Clinical Medical Assistant, Billing and Coding Specialist, Electronic Health Records Clerk, Community Health Worker, and Technician Behavioral health.
“By the end of 2024, we will have served more than 250 people in our workforce programs.” Griggs said. “Our team knew we could do more, and through our business partners, we knew we needed heavy equipment operators…
“In the fall of 2024 we were awarded three new workforce training grants that would serve all of West Virginia. Then we knew Randolph Work transcended not only building size, but name, and Strive West Virginia was born.”
RCHA has also recently been awarded two additional ARC grants, the Inspire Scholarship and the WORC-4 Scholarship, which are being held in partnership with the ETA Department of Labor.
The Inspire Scholarship will be directed towards the development and implementation of the Cultivation, Employment Education and Training (CREATE) program. This training program will be for woodworking and CNC machining, or retail and hospitality courses, tailor-made for individuals in recovery.
Grant WORC-4 has been awarded to develop the Heavy Equipment First Step Training Program, which will use two CAT Simformotion simulators to train participants.
“Our primary goal has always been and always will be to provide participants with low or no cost training and programming,” Griggs said. “In some cases, we can even offer stipends so that those workers who receive new training can still work as hard as they can.”
Charity Daniels, a former student of the program, shared her story at the event about how her life was changed by the training and support she received with what was then WORC.
“In February of 2019, I was suffering from severe addiction and I was arrested and spent five months in prison,” he said. She said. “At that time I was homeless and had no contact with family or friends… Because of my legal status and the job gap, I found it very difficult to find a job.
“I finally found a part-time job at Taco Bell, and then one day I saw a posting for the Get Ready for WoodWorking program that RCHA was offering. I was one of the first people in the program and not only did I get the professional skills I needed to get a job, but I also gained the confidence in myself “.
Because of the training she received in the program, Daniels said, she was able to get a job at AHF Wood Products. This job led to bigger things, as she was appointed as a Quality Inspector at Greenfield Cabinetry. Then last year she accepted a position at STRIVE WV, where she is now a job coach.
For more information about any of the programs offered by STRIVE WV, call 304-460-9016 or go to www.rchawv.org