MARIETTA, OHIO—Washington State Community College (WSCC) recently established a partnership with Tyler Consolidated High School (TCHS) in Sistersville, WV. The collaboration is part of a pathway that will allow high school students to take Washington State’s Chemical Operator certificate program and earn a credential for an in-demand job in the area.
The comprehensive, online program is designed to make graduates familiar with the processes used in a plant environment. Courses cover basic mechanical systems, fundamental safety, health and environment issues, basic math and science, workplace communication, and computer/internet skills necessary for online learning.
The new partnership between WSCC and the WV high school is the first of its kind and aligns the mission of the college with the efforts of the school said Debbie Gurtis, WSCC’s early college coordinator. “Both institutions aspire to the same goal of providing our students with an education that is valuable to the workforce needs of our community.”
TCHS teacher Paden Morris has been instrumental in connecting the two institutions and will support the students enrolled in the Chemical Operator program. Morris explained the high school recently developed a Ready-to-Work program designed to prepare its students for future career endeavors. Through the program, students have the opportunity to earn recognized certifications in a variety of areas, including first aid, CPR, OSHA-10, and RigPass®. He said Washington State’s online chemical operator program was an ideal addition to their program offerings.
The initial pathway for the chemical operator certificate program and was chosen specifically because of the gainful employment opportunities available in the region, said Morris. Momentive Performance Materials, Zoetis, Ormet Primary Aluminum Corporation, as well as several oil and gas companies are among the businesses and industries in the Tyler Consolidated community who could benefit from a workforce with chemical operator certification.
The courses are offered to Tyler Consolidated students through WSCC’s Bridge to College program, a pathway that was developed in 2019 and designed to specifically allow West Virginia high school students to take classes at WSCC. The Bridge to College program complements the early college options available to Ohio residents, including the Early Enrollment Program and College Credit Plus, through which WSCC currently educates more than 800 high school students.
Tuition through the Bridge to College program is discounted by nearly 70 percent of WSCC’s normal tuition so students pay only $49 per credit hour. However, Paden said TCHS students will earn their credential without assuming any tuition expenses. He said MPLX Midstream, a local oil and gas business and a proponent of the project, is partnering with the school to pay half of the tuition fees. Tyler County Schools is assuming the cost of the other half for the first year as well as cover the cost of books, however, he added the arrangement is subject to be changed depending on funding from both entities. “It is the hope that all parties involved can continue with the financial support. Books are being funded by Tyler County Schools,” said Morris.
Chemical operator is the only program currently offered to TCHS student, but Morris said he hopes to grow the program. “The school is very open to expanding a partnership with WSCC in future pathways. We have a wonderful support system in place for our students from our administrators, guidance counselors, county office personnel, and board members that are always wanting to bring the best opportunities to our students.”
Gurtis said that as more WV schools join the nationwide push to shift the focus of the high school experience to include training and credentialing for in-demand jobs, she anticipates a surge in interest in WSCC’s Bridge to College program.
For additional information regarding the Bridge to College program at WSCC, contact Debbie Gurtis at 740.885.5641.