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Arthurdale works to open historic trade skill school

A historic trade school that will teach skills such as carpentry, masonry and metalworking is coming to Arthurdale Heritage Inc., thanks to a partnership with the West Virginia Preservation Alliance.

Those skills are in high demand, said Danielle Parker, executive director of the WVPA. In many cases, especially in the southern part of the state, there just aren’t enough qualified crews to do the work.

The trades pay well, too.

“They are higher-paying, because it’s a different kind of skill set, because you’re working with historic materials,” Parker said. “So there’s testing involved that you have to do and a knowledge of how to work with these certain materials.”

The vision for the trade school is to educate both young people and contractors looking to expand their skill set in order to offer historic preservation, said Elizabeth Satterfield, curator and director of education for Arthurdale.

Satterfield said she hopes the school will be fully operational in three years and can offer classes in the form of workshops or week-long sessions in the build-up. Parker said that’s a realistic timeline. 

One advantage to Arthurdale hosting the school is it has historic buildings, specifically the original high school, cafeteria and elementary school that students can use to get practical field experience. There are also historic buildings in the community, Satterfield said.  

Parker said Arthurdale was chosen for the school for a number of reasons. 

“First of all, they are in an extremely historic part of our state, being the nation’s first New Deal homestead, and what that means for West Virginia,” Parker said. “They are very successful in their efforts and own buildings that need to be restored. So they have a lot of venues and opportunities for students to learn while they work. So that’s the main reason. We also feel like they’re in a good location, because they’re near some of the technical schools as well as WVU, for instance.”

In May, a WVPA Americorps member will be stationed in Arthurdale to work full-time on the school.

“That person will be working on engaging instructors, raising resources to put on the workshops, getting supplies in order, because everyone will need tools to work with, and making sure we have all the insurance and all that good stuff so that we can start planning some sessions and building towards this trade school concept,” Parker said.

When all is said and done, there will be a 6,300-square-foot educational and office space for the program, Satterfield said. Long-term goals, Parker added, include accreditation and hiring someone to run the school.

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