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            [post_date] => 2018-02-06 11:03:00
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RICHMOND – Virginians taking advantage of a new state grants program for workforce training are graduating and being hired into careers that typically increase their take-home pay between 25 percent and 50 percent, and even higher in some cases. Those statistics represent a first look at the wage data of those who used Virginia’s New Economy Workforce Credentials Grants to earn FastForward credentials at a Virginia Community College.

“Businesses are lining up to hire workers with the right skills, and the salary increases are transforming the lives of Virginia families,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges.

PROMISING EARLY NUMBERS
Since the program’s inception, some 4,500 Virginians have used the grants to earn credentials in about 40 high-demand occupations. The average grant recipient is 36 years old, with an annual salary of $22,000 upon entering the program. Two out of three are new to community college education; and 20 percent received some form of public assistance in the year before the grants program began.

Early indicators show welders are seeing some of the biggest increases, up 50 percent. Manufacturers (31 percent), commercial truck drivers (33 percent), and healthcare administrators (23 percent) represent occupations with strong income growth. Construction and power line workers, and certified nursing assistants are also showing strong gains.

Wage analysis compares the program participant’s income before entering a program and the annualized salary earned for two or more quarters after earning a credential. Researchers say wage data from additional program graduates will allow for deeper analysis of these and other occupations.

SURPASSING EXPECTATIONS
“The success of Virginia’s Workforce Credentials Grants has surpassed even our most optimistic expectations,” noted Del. Kathy J. Byron (R-Bedford), sponsor of the House of Delegates legislation to enact the program. “This program is changing lives and transforming our workforce as a result.”

“Those with certifications have quickly found employment with family-supporting wages,” said state Sen. Frank Ruff (R-Clarksville), sponsor of the state Senate legislation. “And we expect each reporting period will yield further results. This is a win for employers and students.”

Virginia’s median income for those 25 and older stood at $42,000 in 2016, which represents a 2.1 percent increase from 2014, and a 4.8 percent increase from 2012. As the program name suggests, FastForward credentials are among the quickest way for an individual to elevate his or her career prospects.

CRUCIAL TO BUSINESSES
“We are pleased to see that the FastForward program is off to a successful start,” said Barry DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “The availability of high-demand credential and degree programs is crucial to the businesses who employ these workers and to growing our economy. We look forward to working with public policy leaders to build on the program’s capacity.”

“Demand is high among both the businesses looking to fill these jobs, and the individuals seeking opportunity,” said DuBois. “The beauty of the program’s pay-for-performance nature is that money is spent only when results are achieved. This is a direct investment in Virginia’s workforce, and a boost for its competitiveness.”

MEETING GREATER DEMAND
The Virginia General Assembly created the grants program in 2016, allocating $12.5 million for the program’s first two years. The pay-for-performance program sold out early each year, exhausting the grant funding. The 2018 introduced biennial budget included $9.5 million for the grants in each of the next two years. Concerned over the high demand for the grants, business leaders and community college officials are working with legislators to further increase the funding.

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 more than 252,000 students each year. For more information, please visit www.vccs.edu.

About FastForward: A high-demand program helping Virginians get the jobs they want and the salaries they need, FastForward programs are short-term training courses offered through Virginia’s Community Colleges to help you fast-track your career for 40 different occupations. State grants and other forms of financial assistance may be available for program applicants. For more information, please visit www.FastForwardVa.org.

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