Obama pledges more than $2 million to train coal miners to pilot drones


$28 million in federal grants are going toward workforce redevelopment programs across Appalachia.

As the U.S. transitions to more sustainable forms of energy, the Obama Administration has been steadily investing in retraining programs for people who used to work for the once-booming American coal industry, where states like West Virginia and Kentucky are losing thousands of jobs a year.

This week, the White House announced nearly $28 million in federal grants to fund 42 workforce and economic redevelopment projects in Appalachian states hit hardest, including $1.5 million to build a new education and technology training center in Tennessee and $2.2 million to train former coal workers to fly drones in southwest Virginia.

By including drone pilot training in federal workforce redevelopment programs, the Obama Administration is sending a clear signal that it projects drones will soon become a key component of the American economy.

The $2.2 million will go toward positioning southwestern Virginia as a “national destination for the development of a drone-operator workforce to support the emerging drone industry.”

It was in Wise County, in southwest Virginia, where NASA partnered with the Remote Area Medical clinic to conduct the very first medical delivery drone flight in the United States in 2015.

This round of grant making is the second installment of the White House’s economic redevelopment plan for coal country. In August of this year, $38.8 million in federal funds were steered into 29 different projects, with $2.8 million to build a new workforce technology training program in Kentucky and $2.3 million to support a small-business development center in West Virginia.

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