Published September 1977 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's•Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd A New Future in an Old Industry Recently, millions of young men and women have spent hours poring over college catalogues before making decisions about which career field they wish to enter, and which courses must be taken to prepare for their future life work. Often these decisions must be made on the basis of guesswork. Predicting what will be a necessary or sought-after skill ten years from today is difficult. This year, however, there are some clues which should be helpful to students and counselors alike. It is clear that experts in energy conservation and energy development, f or instance, will be desperately needed in the years ahead. When properly trained, these experts will be able to command good salaries and excellent job security for the forseeable future. A very large part of the President's energy program depends on a massive increase in coal production in order to provide sufficient coal for conversion from gas and oil by 1985. Successful completion of this part of our energy conservation efforts will mean almost doubling coal production in the next ten years. That unprecedented increase in coal production will require an estimated 152,000 new miners. The Bituminous Coal Operators' Association estimates that the industry will need 3,700 m o r e technicians, 1,100 more engineers, and 2,000 more surveyors within a ten-year period. There will be a need for 54,000 more salaried employees; a n d because coal mining is now a high-technology industry, most of these new workers will have to be trained technicians and professionals. In addition to those who actually produce coal, there will be a need for those who can help meet the developing requirements in environmental, reclamation, and safety programs. Many of these technical fields will provide opportunities to break new ground, and totally new career opportunities will be developed. Even though graduates and undergraduates in our mining schools are increasing in number, we are not yet training people in sufficient numbers to fill the needs of the expanding industry. West Virginia is the home of a number of universities and colleges which offer two- and four-year courses in mining technology. These include the University of VVest Virginia, Beckley College, Bluefield State College, Fairmont State College, Salem College, West Virginia Institute of Technology, and West Virginia Wesleyan. In addition, the National Mine Health and Safety Academy is located at Beckley. There are Vocational Technical Centers and special programs in many parts of the state which offer training to students on either a full- or part-time basis. As the need for mining industry workers becomes more apparent, places in these schools will be rapidly filled. This is an excellent time to think about the future in terms of the real needs of the nation and the real opportunties which are opening up in one of West Virginia's great industries.