MARTINSVILLE–If you want training for a high-demand, well-paying job, Patrick Henry Community College is ready to help.
The college was one of five selected to launch a $2 million initiative to attract young adults in Virginia to high-demand jobs through FastForward training programs.
The effort will link training, career coaching and job placement services to address the historically challenging issue of youth employment, a news release on the Office of the Governor website said. U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that more than 105,000 Virginians between the ages of 18 and 24 are neither working nor attending school. Virginia’s unemployment rate for this age group (12 percent) is nearly four times the rate for the commonwealth as a whole.
Angeline Godwin, president of Patrick Henry Community College, said in an email: “This initiative focuses on a critically important option for this age group of individuals in our community, an opportunity that connects clearly training and the workplace. These jobs provide a solid, liveable wage for people with high-demand skills. Patrick Henry Community College is honored to be one of five Virginia community colleges selected for this program.”
She also said, “…Many of the details for the individual colleges have not been finalized.”
In addition to Patrick Henry Community College, the other four community colleges where the initiative will launch are Thomas Nelson, on the Virginia peninsula; J. Sargeant Reynolds and John Tyler, in the Richmond area; and Southside in southern Virginia, according to the news release on the Office of the Governor’s website.
It said the two-year project will cover student costs associated with tuition, fees, books and examinations for credentials approved under the FastForward program, which is a fast-track work-force credential program to train Virginians for high-demand jobs.
The initiative will provide 18- to 24-year-old Virginians with career exploration and planning, accelerated occupational skills training, supportive services, digital and soft skills training, and job placement assistance, according to the news release.
“We have arrived at the final planning stage for this,” said Jeffrey J. Kraus, assistant vice chancellor for strategic communications for the Virginia Community College System. “What I can share with you, with certainty, is that from the state level this is applying the principles of the Plugged In model to colleges that have existing Middle College programs. Middle College traditionally focused on helping individuals between the ages of 18 and 24, who failed to complete high school, earn a high school GED or equivalent and proceed on to an academic program.”
By applying the Plugged In model principles, Kraus said, community college students will have the option to earn that equivalency and enter theFastForward program to earn a credential that will lead to a high-paying job.
“Those training programs typically last weeks or months, not semesters and years, and are focused on high-demand career fields,” Kraus said.
Kraus added the final step of this planning is locking down which training programs are appropriate for each college’s service region, as well as some other logistics and behind-the-scenes matters that must be approved.
This step customizes this initiative for each of the five participating colleges.
“PHCC will soon be able to share the results of that final planning,” Kraus said. “We’re looking to begin working on this soon. And it’s fair to say that anyone in that 18-24 age group who is looking for an opportunity like this today should contact the college immediately and we will be glad to help them out.”
As for PHCC, school officials said they were excited to be part of the project.
“We will be working across the campus, combining the training and services of our very successful Middle College and Fast Forward programs, to make sure youth ages 18 to 24 in our region can simultaneously work toward their GED and an industry-recognized credential,” said Amanda Broome, PHCC’s communications specialist. “We will provide coaching and wrap-around services to these students to help them complete their credentials and find employment.”
As part of the initiative, Broome added, PHCC’s faculty will “work to articulate industry-recognized credentials earned through Fast Forward programs to academic credit to create pathways so students receive credit for all of their work.”
She said the college is proposing FastForward programs leading to credentials in advanced manufacturing and information technology.
“We have met with our partners, West Piedmont Workforce Development Board and WIOA operator Ross Innovative Employment Solutions, to develop strategies around enrollment, funding and provision of services, and paid on-the-job training opportunities for participants,” Broome said.
WIOA stands for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, according to a U.S. Department of Labor website.
On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced the launch of the $2 million initiative.
He said in a news release: “The well-paying jobs of the 21st century are in what we call ‘new collar’ sectors —those that require skills, but not necessarily a four-year college degree. In order for our Commonwealth to maintain a highly-skilled, attractive workforce we need to make sure that every student has the opportunity to create a successful future.”
He added: “With this initiative we will help prepare young Virginians with the skills and training that employers are looking for and provide critical support to our youth as they start to build careers.”
Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said in an email: “Anything that helps identify people willing and wanting to work is a good thing, but in my view it’s not age specific. We need workers of all ages.”