Virginia’s Community Colleges officially launched the Virginia Infrastructure Academy (VIA) in August, and we have an exciting announcement as well – all VIA programs will be supported by Virginia Ready Initiative! This means students earning their credentials through VIA who apply and are accepted as VA Ready Scholars will be eligible for the $1,000 credential achievement award, career development resources, and job search assistance that are all part of the VA Ready journey.
VIA, in partnership with VA Ready and many others, aims to produce 35,000 infrastructure workers over the next five years. This provides a unique talent pipeline and directly connects students with employers.
The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) has made great strides to rethink how community colleges can support adult workers. During the VIA rollout at Camp Community College, Interim Chancellor Sharon Morrissey explained how the idea emerged from a discussion with a colleague about the need for workers for road-building projects. This discussion grew into a deeper statewide conversation across all Virginia employers about how to marshal the strength of community colleges to change the way industry approaches training.
The rollout event featured multiple scholars who completed VCCS workforce training and are now employed in skilled trades fields. Barbara McGowan took the heavy equipment operator course at Germanna Community College and is also a Virginia Ready Scholar. With her credential in hand, she is now operating a loader at Cedar Mountain Stone Corporation and has a brighter future.
“Virginia Ready, they’re in touch with different employers in the community to help build our community and our people,” said McGowan.
Dylan Rose also spoke about his experience with VCCS training. He studied in Southside Virginia Community College’s powerline worker program before finding a job with Dominion Energy as an apprentice lineman. He is now returning to school to get his journeyman’s card at the end of the program and has earned his CDL as a head start for his next position.
Virginia’s Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater participated in the announcement as well, celebrating the innovative new step in workforce development for the Commonwealth. He spoke about the state of workforce development and the path forward to secure the workers that businesses need.
Workforce programs are in abundance in the Commonwealth, yet we’re still approximately 10,000 jobs below where we were at the beginning of the pandemic.
“We need to optimize our workforce training and maximize it to our potential,” said Slater.
The goal is to create a workforce operation that effectively trains sufficient workers for Virginia businesses. VIA presents another opportunity to streamline and collaborate the Commonwealth’s efforts to achieve this goal.
VA Ready will come alongside the VIA programs, connecting students to in-demand jobs with a regional and statewide focus while involving businesses in career development from the beginning through Talent Task Forces, info sessions, and more.
Healthcare, cyber and IT, and skilled trades careers are the most in-demand and emerging industries, and VA Ready addresses the need to fill those open positions with skilled workers. Virginia’s Community Colleges are a key part of workforce training in Virginia working with VA Ready to meet the supply and demand needs for the Commonwealth, especially as experienced workers continue to retire.
“We need to act now to find replacements so we can take advantage of the institutional knowledge these workers have for the next generations,” said Slater.
VIA is designed to ensure that VCCS training programs produce top-notch graduates to address the needs of the transportation, solar energy, and high-speed broadband industries.
This is a proactive effort to execute solutions for an incredibly important challenge – training students to the point that they can walk straight onto a job after completing their credentials. This commitment to local communities will be a lifeline for the next generation, and VA Ready is proud to support this work in the Commonwealth.