Grant program boosts workforce training at Va. community colleges

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WRIC) — Right now, tens of thousands of jobs are left unfilled in Virginia. It’s not because no one wants them. It’s because people aren’t trained to do them.

On Monday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Virginia) highlighted a program that’s helping many people get employed without getting in debt.

It’s called the Workforce Credential Grant Program. It was created by the General Assembly last year.

It cuts students’ costs for certain programs by two-thirds so more people can get trained for high-demand careers that require specialized training.

“Our problem in Virginia is not jobs. Our problem in Virginia is we have too many high-paying jobs that are going unfilled,” said McAuliffe. “They’re going unfilled because we haven’t matched the skills with the people who are graduating.”

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McAuliffe said the program was developed to help businesses find qualified workers while empowering more Virginians to obtain high-paying jobs. Some of them only require weeks or months of training, rather than semesters or years like a traditional college education.

In the last year, Virginia community colleges provided workforce training to 4,268 people who secured credentials, certifications and licenses. That’s nearly triple the number seen the previous year. More than half of them took advantage of the new grants. The remaining were funding by employers, federal grants or other private sources.

Kouri Tweedy is one of the new graduates.

She was working two part-time jobs and was looking for something more sustainable.

“I knew I needed to jump into a career,” she said.

So she enrolled in workforce training opportunities at Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg. She trained for three health care credentials — Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, EKG Technician and Phlebotomy Technician.

She completed the program in less than four months and was offered a full-time job before graduating.

Her total cost? Just $71, thanks to the new grant and other financial aid.

“Honestly I was in disbelief,” she said. “It opened doors for me to see there’s well enough opportunity out there for anyone.”

Nate Humphrey enrolled in the power line worker program at Southside Virginia Community College.

The retired U.S. Army Ranger served seven combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. When he came home, he was looking for that same camaraderie.

“When I retired, I missed it,” he said. “And I found it being a lineman.”

Days after completing the program, he locked down a job at Southside Electric Cooperative.

“I think the course was just at $11,000, but with the grant, I didn’t pay anything,” he said. “The only thing I paid for was my boots and my belt.”

The Workforce Credential Grant Program is now in its second year. Right now, grants are available to support 146 training courses offered at 23 community colleges in the commonwealth.

To learn more about the program, click HERE.

To see the list of community colleges, jobs and programs, click HERE.

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