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James Madison to offer workforce courses in SoBo

After four years of discussions, James Madison University and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center have forged a partnership with JMU offering several noncredit workforce-focused online programs in affiliation with the SVHEC.

Course offerings will include healthcare, paralegal, computer technician, six-sigma green belt, six-sigma black belt, human resource management, financial planning and certified manager.

Students successfully completing the courses will earn certificates of completion from JMU. In addition, certifications will be available through JMU in five healthcare fields including medical coding and billing, medical transcription, pharmacy technician, medical administrative assistant and medical technology.

“This is the mutually beneficial partnership we’ve been looking for,” said Carol Fleming, JMU senior director for outreach and engagement.

“It took four years to do it, but we’re thrilled. We’re excited, and I know the center (the SVHEC) is excited as well.”

The reason the partnership took so long to come to fruition, Fleming said, was that it took that long to find the right programs to fill the needs of the people of Southside Virginia and fit into the needs of the SVHEC.

“It was the SVHEC and the JMU Outreach and Engagement division trying to find what it was we were going to partner on,” Fleming explained during Wednesday’s announcement of the new partnership.

“On the credit side, there are a lot of universities here (at the SVHEC). The universities may be already offering what we’re offering. It makes no sense for us to come down here and offer something that is already here.

“We wanted to fill a hole,” she added.

“We wanted to offer something that wasn’t here.”

All of the program offerings are online programs, with participants having the ability to take the courses at the SVHEC or at their homes.

“Students can come here to do it, or they can do it at home,” Fleming noted.

“Each of the programs has a different timeline. You have 21 months to finish it, but you can finish it in six months if you want. It’s a restricted timeline, but you do it on your own time.”

Fleming pointed out that the courses and programs that JMU will offer will benefit a number of individuals in the area workforce.

“If you are working at a manufacturing plant and you want to move into a management position, these will give you the skills that you need to be promoted within the industry you’re in or, if you want to change careers, this will give you the skills you need to change careers,” Fleming pointed out.

“The hope is that with the training JMU is providing to the area, the skill set and the workforce here will grow and attain the skills they need to either attract new businesses or support the current businesses that are here.”

SVHEC officials say the affiliation with James Madison University is an important component of the SVHEC.

“The JMU partnership allows the SVHEC to continue offering noncredit, professional interest programming to Southern Virginians in an extremely efficient and cost effective manner,” said Dr. Betty H. Adams, executive director of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.

“We are excited about all of the new noncredit offerings JMU will now bring to the table for our Southern Virginia customers.”

“We are pleased to have this new affiliation with JMU’s Outreach and Engagement division,” added Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens, director of workforce services at SVHEC.

“JMU’s online delivery of many in-demand, content-rich workforce training offerings accompanied by a JMU certificate of completion should be attractive to employers, incumbent workers and job-seekers in Southern Virginia. We are grateful that JMU decided to extend its outreach to this region through us.”

JMU Workforce Development Coordinator Doug Gurth said there is a possibility JMU could offer additional workforce-related programs if there is sufficient need and interest.

“We are also working toward having a corporate partnership program,” Gurth noted.

“If a manufacturing company would like us to come out and run a six-sigma class or a certified manager class or any other customized program, we could look into it. We would have an instructor with industry experience there teaching that customized course.”