A Virginia grant program is leading to increased credentials and wages for participants.
According to Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS), about 4,500 Virginians have used New Economy Workforce Credentials Grants to earn credentials in nearly 40 high-demand occupations. The average grant recipient is 36 years old. Two-thirds are new to community college education. Program completers are typically seeing increases in their take-home pay between 25 and 50 percent. Some of the biggest wage increases are for welders commercial truck drivers and manufacturers.
“Businesses are lining up to hire workers with the right skills, and the salary increases are transforming the lives of Virginia families,” VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois said in a release.
The grants tie in with the FastForward program, which provides short-term training courses at community colleges. Through the program, students can work toward credentials in health care, skilled trades, welding and manufacturing, education, logistics and transportation, information technology and business and customer relations. Programs take between six and 12 weeks to complete and are built so students can get their education while they work. To date, the program has a 90 percent completion rate.
The Virginia General Assembly created the New Economy Workforce Credentials Grants program in 2016, allocating $12.5 million for the program’s first two years. The 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. Business leaders and community college officials are working with legislators to increase the funding, according to the VCCS press release.
“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.”