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Monongalia County education leaders hope to spur education, job training with proposed facility

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The proposed Renaissance Center in Monongalia County is a radical shift from traditional brick-and-mortar facilities in use and is being built for educators and students to begin blazing the next generation’s trail of development.

Ron Lytle

Monongalia County Board of Education President Ron Lytle said the interior spaces of the building can be quickly adapted depending on the size of the class or type of lesson. The available list of subjects will transcend the typical basic offerings and add job-specific opportunities for students to get a certificate, a credential, or a viable skill while on the way to a high school diploma.

“If Monongalia County is going to become the Mecca for industry and for the really well-trained workforce we talk about as a board of education, we need to step up our game—the same old, same old isn’t going to work,” Lytle said.

Lytle said they have been working with local companies to find opportunities to educate area youth while helping local industry meet workforce needs. The transition to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Career Technical Education (CTE), and college preparatory education is already happening.

“For the school to be more than just an educational facility when it comes to book learning and sitting in a classroom to becoming a training provider for the current industry in our area and meeting their needs,” Lytle said.

Lytle hopes the district can meet the regional need for skilled labor with the center. Companies like Mountaintop Beverage have been working with Lytle and the school system to explore ways to open a new pipeline of workers that could be better trained initially.

“There are different skill levels that we could train and help them create the workforce rather than hiring and training,” Lytle said. “They’ve made that commitment to us.”

Regionally, the relationships could include technology companies in the Monongalia County area, but there is also the possibility of branching out to tenants at the I-79 Technology Park, the North Central West Virginia Airport, and the nearby Aero Tech Park.

“We could start training people to go right into the aviation industry from either the manufacturing side or get them interested in a college program or an engineering program and start developing aviation here,” Lytle said.

Monongalia County Schools is one of the top-performing districts in the state, and Lytle wants to continue that trend and add to it. The increase in technology in the workplace is multiplying, creating new opportunities for students as well as for the organizations that deliver education.

“Everyone tends to say we’re doing a good job, and we are doing an excellent job,” Lytle said. “That’s true, but we can do so much better and we could go so much further; we just have to open our eyes.”

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