Jobs & Hope, Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe grads join West Virginia’s heavy equipment workforce

By: Zoe Morris, West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  –  Jobs & Hope West Virginia heavy equipment operator course graduates were recognized Wednesday by Brig. Gen. Gene Holt, West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) Assistant Adjutant General – Army, during the 2023 WV Construction and Design Expo in Charleston. 

“Today I want to congratulate each individual for their effort and the work they did to get to this point,” Holt said. “Those who came into the program from the Jobs & Hope piece and those who are part of the Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program (MJCP).”

Of the six graduates, three came to the free training via Jobs & Hope WV and three attended as part of MJCP, a training program for graduates of WVNG Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA), a 22-week residential program for youth 16-18.

Several of MJCP’s tracks – including heavy equipment operators – line up with Jobs & Hope, leading to a partnership where students learn and work together at the WVNG’s training site in Kingwood. This allows both programs to maximize funding, training and job placement potential for all graduates.

The 214-hour training course is completed in 28 days. Students live and train on the WVNG’s Camp Dawson in Kingwood, West Virginia. Jobs & Hope and MJCP have different requirements in the residential portion but while learning and working together students are held to the exact standards taught by WVNG instructors.

The six graduates learned and executed the operation of a motorized grader, hydraulic excavator, backhoe loader, and a crawler tractor in order to enhance their skill set and make them marketable to companies seeking employees with experience in operating heavy equipment.

“The main goal of Jobs & Hope is to eliminate employment barriers and put West Virginians back to work, and through our partnership with the West Virginia National Guard, and the Mountaineer Job ChallaNGe Program, we are thrilled to celebrate and recognize six graduates today, who are on the path to a successful career,” said Deborah Harris, lead transition agent with Jobs & Hope and Wednesday’s master of ceremonies. 

Jobs & Hope graduates:

Zachary Crawford, Charleston, W.Va.

Maryann Perry, Beckley, W.Va.

Jentry Ross, Charleston, W.Va.

Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program graduates:
Matthew DeWitt, Morgantown, W.Va.
Zachary Kirkpatrick, Morgantown, W.Va.
Joshua Saul, South Charleston, W.Va.

“At the heart of Jobs & Hope is our vision of providing West Virginians like yourself the opportunity to overcome obstacles and barriers,” Harris said. “The six of you now have the advantage of using heavy equipment to rid your path of obstacles and barriers.”

Jobs & Hope West Virginia is the state’s comprehensive response to the substance use disorder crisis. Established by Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature, this program offers support through a statewide collaboration of agencies that provide West Virginians in recovery the opportunity to obtain career training and to ultimately secure meaningful employment.

Eligibility requirements for the program include: 

  • West Virginia resident* 18 years and older
  • Participant has employment as their goal, and
  • Participant has an obstacle to obtaining employment, and
  • Participant is ready for career training/education or job placement, and
  • Participant plans to enroll in a training and/or educational program, and
  • Participant is committed to maintaining recovery, and
  • Participant agrees to random drug testing throughout the program and
  • will provide the results to the Transition Agent.

Anyone interested in Jobs & Hope can start by visiting Any youth age 16-18 interested in Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy or Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program can visit or call 844-975-1755.   |   833-784-1385   |   304-583-4008