Down In The Valley

I was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. My dad and mom still live there.

I was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. My dad and mom still live there. One of the claims to fame of this Ohio River city nestled hard against the Western foothills of the Appalachian mountains is Marshall University—home of the Thundering Herd. If Marshall seems to ring a bell to some of you, it may be because NFL "phenom," Randy Moss, is a graduate of the university. Now that kid's got game.

When I was growing up, Marshall enjoyed a national reputation as a teacher's college. My grandmother and mother both received education degrees there and spent 40-some years each teaching school. Since I was raised as an apologist for teachers, my kids never had a chance telling me it was the teacher's fault when something went wrong for them at school.

Marshall has grown tremendously since I left Huntington, way too many years ago. MU is now home to 16,000 students from around the country. There are branches of the university scattered around West Virginia including community college branches that feed the university from around the state. A college of medicine was added a few years back (1978) to train doctors.

In 1990, the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) was established at Marshall. Since its establishment, the institute has provided customized services for more than 450 manufacturers.

Most recently, the Institute graduated its first machinist class. Dad sends me newspaper clippings to keep me abreast of goings on at RCBI. According to the report, seven students recently completed the first machinist technology program at the institute. It's a 12-month intensive training schedule that combines hands-on metalworking with classroom instruction. The institute is equipped with a variety of CNC machine tools. All seven students passed a machinist certification test, and they also took the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) test. These students are ready to go to work, and there are jobs waiting for them.

My point with all this is that in spite of the deep concern about the shortage of qualified workers in metalworking manufacturing, there are programs that not only address the problem but actually deliver tangible results. The RCBI is a model for other regions of the country to follow in order to deliver viable workers for an industry that needs them. Visit RCBI at