Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2019

LaDawn Lancaster (pictured above with Chancellor DuBois) faced tough odds. A single mom with three daughters, she struggled to make ends meet working three jobs while a full-time college student. Things started turning in her favor when Lancaster sought healthcare workforce credentials through the FastForward program at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

In months instead of years, Lancaster completed Certified Nurse Aide training and landed a fulfilling job in the Labor and Delivery floor at the UVA Health System.

Herndon (L) and the chancellor

At the 2019 VCCS Hire Education Conference, Lancaster received the gathering’s Outstanding Success Story award, along with a $1,000 scholarship to continue her studies at PVCC.

“I want to thank PVCC for showing me the road to an entirely new life,” Lancaster told the applauding audience at the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia.

Hundreds of dedicated Virginia community college workforce associates and associates from partner agencies gathered December 5th to celebrate a host of accomplishments promoting new lives and new careers for VCCS students.

Craig Herndon, VCCS’s Sr. Vice Chancellor for Administration, Finance and Technology, was presented the system’s highest honor, the Dana Hamel Award. Chancellor Glenn DuBois cited Herndon’s service to Virginia’s Community Colleges, especially his leadership in the growth of the system’s workforce training programs.

Sartin and DuBois

Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board, and Southwest Virginia Community College were honored for their collaboration to help retrain former coal miners for new careers after mine closures in the Appalachian region. Jason Sartin, Business Services Coordinator at the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board, received the award.


Clyde Robertson, was honored for Outstanding Achievement as an individual faculty member. Robertson leads the Power Line Worker program at Southside Virginia Community College, which has trained more than 265 students for high-demand careers that literally keep the lights on in homes and businesses across Virginia. Robertson’s award cites not only his expertise and guidance in instruction, but also an uncommon depth of care he displays for his students.



Dana Newcomer, Apprenticeship Coordinator at the Community College Workforce Alliance (Reynolds and Tyler) was celebrated as the Rising Star of 2019. A former high school technology and engineering teacher, Newcomer has been on the job with CCWA not quite two years and was honored for showing drive and tenacity building expansive career pathways, developing contract training programs for a slew of employers, and ensuring meaningful apprenticeships through the American Apprenticeship Grant.

Longtime VCCS project director Mindy Fast (above) was surprised to see the display in her honor during the Hire Ed showcase. Fast, who retires later this month after a long career at the system office, received the Expanding Opportunities Award, recognizing her extraordinary and lasting contributions to the field of workforce development.


“Mindy has been instrumental in the development, delivery and continued operations of more than 20 different initiatives at VCCS,” said Randy Stamper, VCCS assistant vice chancellor for career pathways and workforce programs. “In addition, she has often been our den mother and Dear Abby, by turns.”

Participants at the awards banquet also took time to thank Virginia businesses who are supporting expanded workforce training opportunities through the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE.)

Smith (left)

Gerald “J.J.” Smith of Winchester-based Valley Proteins, Inc. presented Blue Ridge Community College workforce dean Kevin Ratliff a ceremonial check for a grant of $10,000, for a truck driver retention and driver relations program. .

Appalachian Power’s Tony Miller presented three grant awards to help continue transforming and boosting workforce training in Southwest Virginia, thanks to a grant from Appalachian Power and the AEP Foundation to the VFCCE.

Virginia Highlands Community College will receive $38,000 to establish a “soft skills” and leadership academy for students. Pictured left are: (l to r) Miller, VHCC interim president Charlie White, incoming president Adam Hutchison and VHCC workforce dean Robert Phillips.

Appalachian is also making possible a $38,000 grant to Central Virginia Community College, to expand and enhance CVCC’s HVAC training program. Miller is seen (right) with Jason Ferguson, head of CVCC public safety programs.

Miller and Ferguson

And Virginia Western Community College received a grant of $19,000 through this program to expand its automotive service technician training program. 

Miller presented the ceremonial check to VWCC president Robert Sandel (below, left).

You can see and download photos from this year’s Hire Education Conference; click here.

Miller and Sandel'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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