CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chief operating officer for Appalachian Power Company says he is finding students with two-year degrees tend to be more desirable as prospective employees than those with more years of education and advanced degrees.

Appalachian Power Company President and COO Chris Beam.

“A couple of reasons for that,” said Chris Beam in an appearance Monday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “It gets them into the workforce quicker and it gets them into the workforce with more ‘hands-on’ ability and less theory that you’d get in a higher ed degree. We’re looking for folks who can hit the ground running for us.’

Although the two-year degrees are proving to be the most lucrative prospects, the emphasis on STEM is high in the power company’s needs. The technical nature of the work, according to Beam, makes the STEM education valuable.

“We focus a lot on science, engineering, technology, and math fields,” he said. “But it’s a balance that needs to be looked at very closely to make sure we’re providing the students–our workers of the future–the right path forward and what fits them and their needs.”

Beam, who will speak at the West Virginia Education Summit sponsored by the Education Alliance Nov. 1 in Charleston, explained Appalachian Power, like many other companies, have built relationships with community and technical colleges to tailor training specifically for what they need.

“We’ve donated to them physical pieces of equipment to go along with the training curriculum, so they’ll have hands-on experience with something they’ll see in the work environment,” Beam said. “We’re sitting down with them and helping them to develop the curriculum itself to explain what needs to be in there.”

Beam said of his experience with the West Virginia workforce, he’s found the strongest work ethic anywhere and like most other states, the opioid addiction problem is the biggest problem they face in hiring the next generation of Appalachian Power employees.

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