“I started the program because I wanted a better life for my children and I wanted to be proud of myself for once.”
Jasmine Quinoes says she found out about skilled trades workforce training at Tidewater Community College at her local unemployment office. The single mother of three sons discovered a passion for carpentry, and even as she continues her training at TCC, she’s found good work in the region’s maritime ship repair industry.
“It has literally changed my life and my children’s lives,” Quinoes told a hushed audience at the launch of the Virginia Infrastructure Academy. “I’m like a different person with a different outlook on life.”
The massive infrastructure funding bill passed by Congress last fall is expected to help repair Virginia’s crumbling highways and bridges in addition to paying for numerous utility, port and airport improvements. Working closely with employers who are eager to hire skilled workers, Virginia’s Community Colleges announced plans to ramp up workforce training programs at the VIA launch event August 11 at Paul D. Camp Community College.
Marvin Robertson, who trained to be a heavy equipment operator at Camp, was one of the workforce program graduates who was on hand to attest to the program’s success. “I earned several certifications and now I have the confidence to tell employers I can do the work they need to be done. People should come in and take advantage of this. The instructors have your back and they teach you the right way to do things.”
“I run loader at a rock quarry and I love what I do,” said Barb McGowan, who trained in the Asphalt Technician program at Germanna Community College. McGowan has always had a knack for mechanical and motorized equipment. “I’m a single mother and working in in the road building industry has given me a chance to provide a better life for me and my daughter.”
Dylan Rose was first exposed to the power line worker training program at Southside Virginia Community College during a high school field trip. “I’m glad I did the program,” said Rose. “I know now that you can do anything you set your mind to. My community college set me up to get a job that I love. It’s the best decision I ever made.”
“These are positions that from day one, provide better than livable wages,” said Matt Kellam, workforce development and planning coordinator at Dominion Energy. Kellam argued that jobs in the utility industry are particularly meaningful work because of their impact on the welfare of Virginia’s communities.
More broadly, Kellam credited the partnership between Virginia employers and community colleges to produce workers with the skills employers need. “We need to work in close collaboration to help our young people, our displaced workers, our veterans and everyone else to be able to navigate their way to good careers.”
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