LAVALE, Md. (WDVM) — Community leaders and residents of Allegany County gathered together to celebrate the results of a new vocational training facility and incubator space, an effort that came as a result of the Verso paper mill that closed in June of 2019.
“We all received the news of the devastation of the mill closing,” said James Pyles, member of the Allegany College of Maryland board of trustees. “Then immediately and very quickly, a partnership was created with Allegany County Government and Allegany College of Maryland.”
It’s called Western Maryland Works, and a handful of former paper mill workers are using this opportunity to learn new machinery and engineering skills.
“We come in Monday through Thursday, sometimes it’s a lot more than that,” said David Mills. “We get our labs in… We’ve already done pneumatics, mechanics, and hydraulics.”
While some are still working on their program, Mills and several other former Verso employees received national accreditation for the training they completed.
“A NIMS national certification in machining. So they’re able to take that certificate and walk into any employer nationally and say, ‘I have this certification, and that sets me apart from everybody else,'” said Brandon Butler, Allegany County administrator.
According to Butler, Western Maryland Works is open for much more than just training, “We also have the local robotics team that’s going to be training out of this space. We have four spaces for businesses to be incubated.”
While many former verso employees are training at the facility, Mills thinks this is a great opportunity for the youth, saying, “Everything is going to robotics, somebody’s got to work on that stuff.”
A resident of Allegany County shared this statement in regards to employment in the area:
We are all very proud to witness the awarding of credentials to over 30 members of the first class of the Allegany College of Maryland’s Manufacturing Program. The celebration today, symbolizes the setting of the cornerstone in the foundation for the new beginning of Allegany County Maryland as a world class center of excellence for business.
These 30 class members represent the thousands of technically qualified, hard working, flexible, and loyal workers that are available to take on the upmost challenging and rewarding careers in the world. The Advanced Manufacturing Program is helping to further enhance this work force.
In today’s ultra low unemployment environment, Allegany County, Maryland has a large group of underemployed residents that are eager and readily available for any companies needing to expand in a new location. With a university, two colleges, and excellent public schools in the area, we are well positioned to continue to improve the work force needed to provide employees for many decades to come.