Preparing workers for the new economy

A Virginia grant program designed to help older adults is resulting in more credentials and higher wages for participants.

About 4,500 state residents have used New Economy Workforce Credentials Grants to earn credentials in nearly 40 high-demand occupations, according to early data examined by the Virginia Community College System. Program completers are typically seeing increases in their take-home pay between 25 and 50 percent, with welders, commercial truck drivers and manufacturers receiving some of the biggest wage increases, it said.

This article comes from the AACC 21st Century Center.

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.

The program’s completion rate so far is 90 percent. The average age of students in the program is 36, and two-thirds of them are new to community colleges.

Virginia lawmakers created the program in 2016, allocating $12.5 million for its first two years. The program “sold out” early each year, exhausting the grant funding. In 2018, the biennial proposed 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 VCCS.

“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,” said VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois.

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