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HUNTINGTON — It started with an email, but it turned into a partnership between Mountwest Community and Technical College and Ntiva Inc. to open a fully functional professional IT service desk that will enable Mountwest students to gain real-world work experience while earning their degrees in information technology.

“We got that email last summer from Ntiva saying they wanted to start a partnership with us,” said Mountwest President Josh Baker.

“They said they wanted to do the internship in our building. Well, that’s interesting, and as we got into it further we talked about remote work where they may start here, but we would really like to keep them on as employees.”

Baker said the students gain real-world work experience that potentially leads to a job locally.

“We realized this actually connects with many of our West Virginia strategies,” he said.

“You have heard an emphasis statewide wanting remote workers to come to West Virginia. This is a partnering strategy of training of let’s actually train our local talent to be those local workers. And that second strategy we heard statewide is let’s retain West Virginia’s talent and stop exporting people. This helps with that strategy as well.”

Patrick Smith, a professor who will be teaching the students, said industry partnerships are the cornerstone of any successful community college system.

“As an instructor I am able to give my students the skills and knowledge they need to hopefully be marketable for the workforce, but we are able to put that to the test with our industry partners,” Smith said.

The Service Desk Academy opened April 1 with eight students, Smith said.

Michelle Brockney, vice president of operations at Ntiva, joined students, faculty, guests and other Ntiva personnel to cut the ribbon in the new space on campus.

“We established our first Service Desk Academy in 2019 in Parkersburg,” Brockney said. “These interns are making a tremendous effort in serving our clients and increasing customer experience. They are learning tools and our technology and we are hoping to make two offers to two candidates, one graduating from Mountwest this year and one from Parkersburg. These types of programs are working, and we are glad to be here.”

Baker said most of the student go through the program free of charge.

“Part of that is Pell grants. A big part of that is West Virginia Invests, which covers the tuition and fees of this program,” he explained.

“In addition, there is Learn and Earn, where half of their wages are paid by the state. Part of the reason that Ntiva came to us is because most states don’t have a Learn and Earn model. That’s a strategic statewide investment that we are so thankful to our state legislators for because it allows us to have these remarkable and successful partnerships.”

Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell, a member of the House of Delegates, attended the ceremony and said the program is the fruit of many pieces of legislation.

“Legislation passed several years ago (that) allows most students to attend in-state community and technical college for free, and we have the Learn and Earn program that covers half the salaries, and today’s event shows the success from these strategies,” Rohrbach said.

“The state is very committed to getting people employed with good, high-paying jobs.”

Fred Pace is the business reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

Fred has been in the newspaper industry for 30+ years. He continues to be excited to bring readers news that only comes thru local journalism. “Being able to share the passion felt by entrepreneurs in our community with readers is exciting,” he said.

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