By Christina Nukols, Office of the Governor
RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced the launch of a new grant program designed to ensure that workforce credentials are accessible and affordable for Virginians seeking the skills they need to obtain good-paying jobs in high-demand fields.
The New Economy Workforce Industry Credentials Grant program covers 124 different community college training programs at Virginia’s Community Colleges geared toward providing workforce credentials at one-third of their former cost.
“This program establishes a first-in-the-nation performance funding formula to create and sustain a supply of credentialed workers who meet the needs identified by our business leaders,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This week’s launch is the culmination of many months of hard work by public and private sector partners, all of us working together to ensure that Virginia has a 21st century workforce with the skills and experience to compete in today’s global economy.”
Virginia’s Community Colleges consulted with Virginia businesses to develop the list of eligible credentials that can provide access to a wide variety of high-demand jobs, such as certified welder, electrician, medical records tech, computer network specialist, pharmacy tech, digital security specialist, emergency medical tech, industrial machinery mechanic, dental assistant, and commercial truck driver. The Virginia Board of Workforce Development identified more than 170 in-demand jobs aligned with the Commonwealth’s economic development targets for which Virginians can prepare through the new workforce program.
These are jobs that require specific skills, but not necessarily a traditional college degree. Community Colleges are making it even easier to earn workforce credentials by developing new programs and adding classes and locations for increased convenience.
“To create the skilled workforce the Commonwealth needs now and in the future, we need more options for training and credentialing that work for Virginians of all ages and life circumstances,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “With the New Economy Workforce Credentials program, for the first time, we have new options for workforce training and development that promptly get trainees into the skilled labor force.”
Research indicates that these workforce credentials are in high demand across Virginia and will be for the foreseeable future. The company Burning Glass produced a recent report indicating that there were more than 175,000 job vacancies for so-called middle-skill occupations last year in Virginia – the types of jobs that typically require some type of credential. The jobs paid more than $28 per hour (or more than $58,500 per year). According to the research, the jobs went unfilled for an average period of 26 days, which is longer than the national average. As a result, Virginia businesses lost 36.4 million hours of productivity. Virginia families lost more than $1 billion in potential wages, and Virginia’s General Fund lost more than $54.3 million in revenue.
Other studies predict that Virginia will have to fill more than 1.4 million jobs over the next decade. As many as two-thirds of those positions will require postsecondary level workforce credentials.
“The New Economy Workforce Industry Credentials Grant program will be a game changer for the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Education Dietra Trent. “The in-depth research that has gone into establishing this innovative program will help us to increase access and success in higher education, especially for some of our most underserved populations.”
Students enrolling in one of the workforce credential training programs covered by the new grants will pay only one-third of the normal cost. Program costs vary widely, depending on the length and complexity of the training. For a list of programs covered by the grants, visit the link here to the VCCS website.
The maximum value of each grant is $3,000. For example, a student who enrolls in and successfully completes a grant-eligible program that normally costs $4,500 will now pay $1,500, and the grant covers $3,000 of the cost. Additional financial aid can offset that cost even further. More information is available at the workforce development offices of Virginia’s Community Colleges.
Governor McAuliffe won bipartisan support this year among Virginia lawmakers for funding to enable approximately 10,000 Virginians to receive Workforce Credentials Grants for training costs over the next two years. This unique performance-based funding model is the first in the nation. Further, it represents the first significant public funding for workforce training programs in the 50-year history of Virginia’s Community Colleges.
“These workforce credentials increasingly represent the American Dream in the 21st century,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Individuals earn these credentials in weeks and months, not semesters and years. Those students are often quickly employed by businesses hungry for their skills. And they accomplish all that without piling on a decade’s worth of student debt.”
About Virginia’s Community Colleges:
Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve approximately 400,000 students each year. For more information, please visit www.vccs.edu. To share a story about how community colleges change lives, visit 50.vccs.edu.