In separate visits to a pair of Virginia Community Colleges last week, two of President Biden’s cabinet secretaries held up VCCS workforce and career training programs as models that could be emulated nationwide to boost student success and help employers find critically needed skilled workers. Adding a bipartisan note of support, a conservative Republican congressman told students at a third college that the specialized job training they’re receiving will make the nation safer.
Workforce and career training programs are among the fastest growing courses at Virginia’s Community Colleges. FastForward workforce credential training prepares students for family-sustaining careers in weeks or months, not years. And G3 career training programs increase access for low-to-moderate income students to prepare for work high-demand fields including public safety, information technology, healthcare, skilled trades, construction and manufacturing, and early childhood education.
Reynolds Community College:
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and U.S. senator Tim Kaine met May 2nd with students and faculty from EMT and health care professions programs at Reynolds Community College.
Cardona has pushed for schools to reimagine education by ensuring pathways through higher education that lead to successful careers. At Reynolds, “they’re doing it masterfully,” Cardona said.
“We don’t often say it like this, but community colleges like Reynolds are really economic development engines,” Cardona noted. “This community’s economic stability is better off because of this community college. You see the importance not only of education but providing job opportunities for your students.”
“Students here are getting a top-notch education and experience that will lead to good jobs. I’m going to push hard to make programs like this the norm, not the exception, for programs across the country. I’m here to learn from your experience to help drive my policy decisions,” added Cardona.
At a roundtable discussion about the importance of training opportunities, Garrick Williams, seen in the center, said he previously had enrolled in a four-year institution and left when he had a change of heart about this career goals. Williams earned a healthcare certification at Reynolds in February, and that’s just the first step toward his new goal. “I really didn’t see myself in healthcare at the beginning, but now I realize I do want to help people. So, at first I wanted to help people by fixing cars. Now I want to fix their bodies.”
Thomas Nelson (becoming Virginia Peninsula) Community College:
Also on May 2nd, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and congressman Robert “Bobby” Scott met with students and faculty in the growing construction and welding program at Thomas Nelson (becoming Virginia Peninsula) Community College. Community Colleges in Virginia’s tidewater region offer these programs with a targeted goal of training workers for the area’s important shipbuilding and marine services industries.
Secretary Walsh noted, “Thomas Nelson Community College and the [Newport News Shipbuilding] Apprentice School have been a role model for expanding and diversifying apprenticeships and are a shining example of the workforce development investments needed to grow our nation’s middle class.”
Rep. Scott, D-3rd District and also chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee) said teaching people the skills they need to re-enter the workforce is critical to the nation’s recovery from the pandemic. He echoed Walsh’s statement that the job training programs they visited at TNCC and the Apprentice School are “national examples” of how to do that.
Danville Community College:
U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-5th District, underscored the importance of specialized manufacturing programs related to the national defense when he met with faculty and students at Danville Community College on May 3rd. Rep. Good visited the Charles Hawkins Engineering and Industrial Technologies building at DCC, where students train for careers in machining, metrology, welding and additive manufacturing, also called professional or industrial 3D printing. “Thank you for what you’re learning,” Good told a group of metrology students at DCC during his tour. “It will make our country safer.”