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Submitted photo Graduates and instructors gather for the summer 2019 graduation party.

HUNTINGTON — The Step Up for Women Advanced Manufacturing Program just completed its seventh cohort.

The vocational training program has run two classes per year since its first class in the summer of 2016, according to Melinda Perron, program coordinator for Step Up for Women.

“Dozens of women have gone through the training and found employment in local manufacturing companies,” she said.

The class, which runs out of the Robert C. Byrd Institute on 4th Avenue in Huntington, cycles students through manual and CNC machining, shop math, manufacturing blueprint reading, and employment soft skills. Perron says the women in the program are not charged any tuition.

“Grants and scholarships pay for the classes,” she explained. “There are no income limits or residency requirements either. Students often travel from Kentucky or Ohio.”

Graduate income averages over $12 per hour starting wage with regular increases, Perron said.

“Some local companies pay as much as $17 per hour for new hires,” she said. “Jobs are 40 or more hours per week usually with benefits like medical and retirement.”

Perron says she is pleased with how well the graduates have done.

“It was nerve-wracking to run the first class back in 2016,” she said. “No one knew how the class would go … this was the very first manufacturing pre-apprenticeship for women in the county.”

Women from 18 to 60 have been successful in the program, and Perron encourages women of color, veterans and other minority groups to apply.

“Thankfully, almost all of my students have found jobs and moved up in their careers,” she said. “I’m getting to see these women go from depending on government benefits to buying their own homes.”

Step Up is a program of West Virginia non-profit focused on helping women become financially secure.

Anyone interested in the class can apply at wvwomenwork.org/stepupamp or call 304-528-9991 for an application.

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