Five Projects Selected as Finalists for the Appalachian Regional Commission, U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Welding Workforce Initiative Awards

Proposed projects advancing to final round will expand skilled workforce capacity for Appalachia’s Energy, Aerospace, Aviation, Automotive, and Petrochemical Industries

Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021 – Today, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) announced five finalists for the Advanced Welding Workforce Initiative (AWWI), a partnership to invest approximately $1 million in education and training for advanced technical workers in Appalachia.

Selected projects were part of a highly competitive applicant pool and advanced to final stages due to their anticipated impact on the Region’s advanced welding and manufacturing workforce, particularly its capacity to meet growing demand across a number of industries. Finalists were also selected on the basis of connecting proposals with pressing regional needs, including expanding offerings into economically distressed areas, targeting designated Opportunity Zones and recruiting workers in long-term recovery from substance use disorder.

AWWI finalists are:

  • Robert C. Byrd Institute Advanced Welding Program at Marshall University in Huntington, WV, which will offer education and hands-on, mobile training for Central Appalachia’s advanced welders to prepare them for opportunities in manufacturing, fossil power plant, aviation, automotive, and petrochemical industries.
  • Southeast Community and Technical College Harlan Welding Expansion in Harlan, KY, which will update equipment and scholarship offerings for an existing welding program serving three economically distressed counties, that also include designated Opportunity Zones.
  • Westmoreland County Community College Advanced / Special Alloy Welding Program in Youngwood, PA, which will expand training and certifications in existing welding programs to include the joining of advanced alloys for high-temperature fossil-based power plants, as well as aviation, automotive and petrochemical industries.
  • Calhoun Community College Robotic Welding Program in Decatur, AL, which will expand course offerings to include robotic welding for students and incumbent workers seeking careers in North Alabama’s growing aerospace and defense-related manufacturing industries.
  • Belmont College Eastern Ohio Appalachia Pipe Welding and Fabrication Project in St. Clairsville, OH, which will equip advanced welders with specialized skills for the oil and gas and metal fabrication industries, a sector that will soon need hundreds of qualified workers for a proposed Ethane Cracker Plant in Belmont County.

“The plentiful energy resources being extracted in the Appalachian Region are yielding a value chain that can create thousands of well-paid, high-skill jobs for Appalachian workers, including in advanced manufacturing techniques,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “Among these are good jobs in advanced welding, and that is why ARC is partnering with the National Energy Technology Laboratory to invest in programs ensuring our workforce is prepared for this unique opportunity.”

“The future of the Appalachian energy and petrochemicals industry depends on a skilled workforce.  DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy is proud to support AWWI, which provides welding training in specialty metals and advanced fabrication that is essential to the economic future of the Appalachian energy and petrochemicals industry,” said Steven E. Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy.

AWWI’s funding is jointly provided by ARC and DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy High Performance Materials program  to prepare a new generation of welders to manufacture and service high-temperature alloy components in advanced coal- and natural gas-fueled electric generating stations. Such plants operate at significantly higher temperatures and pressures, which increases efficiency and lowers emissions of carbon dioxide but requires the use of superalloys that can withstand the harsh conditions. Several AWWI finalists put forth projects that would develop a workforce with the high-tech welding skills needed to use those advanced materials to ensure the successful operation of low- and near-zero emission plants powered by Appalachia’s abundant reserves of coal and gas.

Demand for workers with similar skills are needed in the automotive, aerospace, aviation and petrochemical industries. AWWI is part of a series of joint efforts between ARC and DOE to help Appalachia fully harness the economic and workforce potential of these sectors. Other collaborations between the agencies include the Appalachian Energy and Petrochemical Renaissance: An Examination of Economic Progress and Opportunity, a DOE report – which included ARC research – that found petrochemical manufacturing currently in development in Appalachia is projected to attract between $16 billion and $20 billion in capital investment, and create more than 9,800 jobs directly and indirectly in Appalachia by 2025.

ARC and DOE expect to issue AWWI award announcements by this spring.

About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission ( is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

About the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Lab (NETL)
NETL ( is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that produces technological solutions for America’s energy challenges. From developing creative innovations and efficient energy systems that make coal more competitive, to advancing technologies that enhance oil and natural gas extraction and transmission processes, NETL research is providing breakthroughs and discoveries that support domestic energy initiatives, stimulate a growing economy, and improve the health, safety and security of all Americans. Highly skilled men and women at NETL’s sites in Albany, Oregon; Anchorage, Alaska; Houston, Texas; Morgantown, West Virginia; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania conduct a broad range of research activities that support DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States.