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Grant awarded for educational, employment services for veterans

Monday, April 29, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A $200,235 grant has been awarded for veterans educational and employment services in a partnership between Patrick Henry Community College, the Virginia Employment Commission and the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board (WIB).

The money is Workforce Investment Act Rapid Response Assistance funds, and the Virginia Community College System is the issuing agency, according to PHCC and WIB officials.

The PHCC Veterans Office will serve as a one-stop center for veterans’ educational needs, according to the grant application. The office will provide counseling and advising services, possible employment opportunities and assistance with educational benefits.

It also will serve as the liaison for veterans between PHCC and outside organizations, including the Veterans Administration, the Virginia Employment Commission and the Virginia Workforce Center while preparing them for high-wage and high-growth employment opportunities.

The Wounded Warrior Program, Piedmont Community Services and the toll-free Veterans Crisis Line are among the other resources to which veterans could be referred.

The Martinsville office of the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) will assist with referrals to PHCC programs, and student veterans and spouses will be referred back to the VEC for employment services at the end of their time at PHCC, according to the grant application.

“The WIB will be responsible for case management, co-enrollment, reporting and referrals to PHCC programs. The WIB’s responsibilities include assisting with the documentation and support of the industry sector approach, primarily in advanced manufacturing, health care and high technology, to meet work force and training needs of potential employers,” the grant application states.

PHCC is the fiscal agent for the grant, said Jeff Porter, the college’s dean of student development services.

The college has about 100 student veterans, and the goal is to have at least 150 by the end of the grant on June 30, 2014, Porter said.

PHCC currently does not have a dedicated staff position for veteran services. This grant will enable the college to hire a veterans specialist, and it provides funds for a part-time Workforce Investment Board case manager, he said.

The college is waiting on approval from the Virginia Community College System so that it can advertise the veterans specialist position and hire someone, Porter said. He added that he hopes someone will be in the position in June.

Cindy Keller, director of financial aid and veterans services for PHCC, will supervise the veterans specialist,

The grant also provides funds for professional development at the college to make faculty and staff aware of veterans’ issues, such as illnesses, disabilities or conditions veterans may return home with after combat, as well as medicines and side effects, Porter said.

The training also will involve developing processes that will help educators award proper credit to veterans for prior learning through such things as military course work, training and occupational specialty, according to Porter and the grant application.

The grant also includes some money for marketing and supplies, such as a computer and a desk, Porter said.

“Cindy (Keller) and I are thrilled we will be able to do some things we have talked about for many years,” Porter said. “We have a great deal of respect for veterans. They served the nation well, and we want to give them the best education possible. ... This is an opportunity to take the level of services for veterans and families to the next level.”


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