When RG Steel closed in Baltimore, laying off 2,000 well-paid steelworkers, Community College of Baltimore County offered workers a chance to retool. But college was a hard sell, despite federal retraining aid for displaced workers. “It’s a group of men who think college is for other people,” says Brian Penn, who runs the college’s heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and energy technology program.
As boomer workers near retirement, employers are partnering with community colleges to train a new generation of skilled trades workers. But many young people don’t realize there are opportunities in manufacturing, plumbing, construction and other blue-collar fields. Welding, seen as dirty and dangerous, is trying to market itself as noble, stable and lucrative. West Virginia needs steelworkers.