Thanks to several grants available at Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC), Don Conner (pictured above) got his hands on a new career in welding. After 23 years in truck driving, the 51-year-old was ready for a change of pace.
“Raymond, my Adult Career Coach, was great. Welding was something I’d always thought of,” Conner said. “Ready for a change, I decided to go for all the certifications I could.”
Conner’s pursuit of retraining was funded by the Dislocated Worker Program, the Jobs Driven National Emergency Grant, and the Workforce Credential Grant Program.
Conner began his career as a diesel mechanic in the Navy and worked in skilled trades at the shipyards in the Tidewater area. Having been employed by contractors and witnessing first-hand how work could slow to a crawl at times, Conner appreciates programs that offer career counseling and retraining to boost confidence and get people back on track.
“It’s great to feel like a productive member of society again, you know?” He observed. “I’m not just walking around wondering what I’m going to do after a layoff.”
The future looks bright for Conner who was offered a job in welding at Walker Manufacturing Inc. in Harrisonburg, which makes exhaust systems for many different vehicle manufacturers.
“The welding instructors at BRCC are great,” Conner said. “They do not pressure you but they’re very thorough in their instruction. They help break you into the field but make you think about the whole process. They show a variety of different techniques. The small class size and splitting the training into four sections really allowed for individualized attention.”
To learn more about the Dislocated Worker Program, contact Raymond Watson at 540-453-2293.
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