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■ Business Trends: EDUCATION


A helping hand Grant program supports credentials in high-demand fields


Army veteran Nate Humphrey (right) meets Gov. Terry McAuliffe at an event highlighting the growth of


credentials earned in Virginia.


dentials is north of 90 percent,” says Craig Herndon, vice chancellor for workforce development of the Virginia Community College System. The grants pay for two-thirds of the


cost of 146 credentials in high-demand industries, such as information technology, health care and logistics. Eligible programs vary by location, depending on the needs of employers, says Herndon. The grants were created by 2015 Gen-


eral Assembly legislation. In the most recent fiscal year, the commonwealth appropriated $5 million for the program. That increases to $7.5 million in the cur- rent fiscal year. The average cost of these programs


L by Jessica Sabbath


ast year, Lynchburg resident Kouri Tweedy was juggling retail and fast- food jobs with no clear idea of what


she wanted to do in the future. “I was ready for a career,” she says. On a visit to a local Virginia Employ-


ment Commission office, Tweedy learned about a state-funded grant program that helps people who are seeking credentials in high-demand industries. A counselor told her that with a grant


and other financial aid, she could earn three health-care credentials at Central Virginia Community College for just $71 in out- of-pocket costs. “I was in disbelief,” says Tweedy. Now she is a clinical medical assi stant


for Community Access Network in Lynch- burg and has plans to earn an associate degree in nursing. Started just a year ago, the state’s New


Economy Workforce Credential Grant pro- gram already is paying dividends. In the fiscal year that ended June 30,


Virginia community colleges almost tripled 38 AUGUST 2017


the number of credentials, licenses and cer- tifications awarded in high-demand fields covered by the grant. During that time, Virginians earned


4,268 credentials in those fields. A year ear- lier, only 1,528 Virginians had earned those credentials. “Our problem in Virginia is not jobs,”


Gov. Terry McAuliffe said at a July event at John Tyler Community College highlight- ing the program’s success. “Our problem in Virginia is we have too many high-paying jobs that are going unfilled.” More than half of students earning


credentials last year took advantage of the grant program. It was developed to fill jobs that require more than a high school educa- tion but less than a college degree. Virginia is the first state in the coun-


try to offer a “pay for performance” work- force credential grant. The commonwealth awards the money only when the train- ing program is completed and the student earns an industry-recognized credential. “So far, the completion rate for these cre-


range from $2,000 to $3,000 for in-state residents, with some programs costing as much as $4,500. “This is a tremendous help to our students,” says Keith Harkins, vice president of workforce development and continuing education at Southside Virginia Community College. “There’s no doubt that many students would have a dif- ficult time paying for this if it were not for this workforce credential grant.” A grant helped Nate Humphrey find


the on-the-job camaraderie he had missed after 13 years in the U.S. Army. Humphrey, a retired disabled veteran who served seven combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, completed the power-line training program at Southside Virginia Community College. His costs were covered by the grant pro- gram and other financial aid. Humphrey now is an apprentice line


technician at Southside Electric Coopera- tive. The job can be challenging, requiring long hours in difficult conditions. “I was used to the brotherhood and the camara- derie I had in the Army,” says Humphrey. “We depend on the person to the left and right of you, and I was missing that.”


Photo by Jessica Sabbath


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