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Tobacco commission OKs workforce training grants

The Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (TIC) on Thursday awarded the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) two grants to strengthen southern Virginia’s workforce.

A grant in the amount of $163,750 will fund an Advanced Manufacturing Bootcamp initiative, and a second grant in the amount of $20,886 will fund the initial cohort of participants in the SVHEC’s new welding lab. 

 “We are most grateful to the tobacco commission for approving these grants. These resources allow us to continue responding to the immediate workforce needs being articulated by regional employers while laying foundational career pathways to prepare our advanced manufacturing workforce,” said SVHEC Executive Director Dr. Betty Adams.

The Advanced Manufacturing Bootcamp will use the SVHEC-developed Work Ready Foundations (WRF) curriculum and Virginia Manufacturers Association’s (VMA) Manufacturing Technician Program to prepare participants for success in entry-level advanced manufacturing positions. 

Through a combination of lab exercises, demonstrations and small-group instruction, participants obtain the skills needed for success in almost all manufacturing entry-level positions and a foundation for more advanced skill building. Successful program completers will earn a set of stackable, nationally recognized credentials including the National Career Readiness Certificate, OSHA 10, Lean Principles, Standard Work, and CPR and First Aid. 

Tobacco commission grant funds will allow a cohort of 15-20 WRF participants to be established in the South Central WIB district, and another cohort to be established in the West Piedmont WIB district. 

 “Receiving funding for the Advanced Manufacturing Bootcamp provides another layer of support for the work we’re doing to create a pool of work-ready applicants for Southern Virginia,” said Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens, SVHEC director of workforce services. “Working with the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce’s Senior Executive Roundtable, we developed the Work Ready Foundations curriculum to focus on providing participants with the skills they need and the certifications employers want. We’re grateful the tobacco commission sees the value in Work Ready Foundations and has provided the resources to allow us to expand this initiative throughout the region,” she said.

Because of TIC grant funds, 80 individuals will have an opportunity to complete the Advanced Manufacturing Bootcamp, helping to advance Southern Virginia’s workforce by creating a pool of applicants with the knowledge, skills and abilities employers need. 

Multiple training providers will deliver the Work Ready Foundations curriculum, and pre- and post-assessments will ensure student learning outcomes are met. Participants who achieve advanced scores on the pre-assessment will have an opportunity to sit for VMA’s advanced Manufacturing Technician Level 1 Certification. Individuals without advanced scores will be able to sit for VMA’s Manufacturing Specialist Certification. Both credentials are industry-wide technical skills certifications that “stack” upon the National Career Readiness Certificate.

“The SVHEC team is doing remarkable work by bringing together innovative industry-recognized, competency-based and stackable middle skills credentials, like the Manufacturing Skills Institute’s Manufacturing Technician 1 and Manufacturing Specialist (MT1/MS) certifications as well as the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) and NCCER Welding credentials, to build a world-class manufacturing workforce,” said Brett Vassey, president and CEO of Virginia Manufacturers Association. “Over 85 percent of this region’s manufacturing jobs require middle skills, and we are excited that the 12 critical skills learned through the MT1/MS certifications will be built upon the NCRC to ensure career readiness and industry readiness for 80 Virginians,” he continued.

In addition to the grant for the Advanced Manufacturing Bootcamp, the tobacco commission also awarded the SVHEC $20,886 to fund the first cohort of students in the SVHEC’s new welding lab. 

This past May, the tobacco commission’s Southside Economic Development Committee awarded the SVHEC $154,114 to fund the build-out of a welding lab in the SVHEC-Innovation Center. The build-out is expected to be complete summer 2014, with the first group of students beginning classes fall 2014. 

The welding program, offered by Virginia Technical Institute (VTI) in Altavista, is accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). 

Students completing the program will be eligible for NCCER certifications that will provide a portable, industry recognized credential.  

“According to our employers, welding is one of the major skills gaps in Halifax County. Because of the tobacco commission’s support, we will be able to establish an industry-certified program that will provide a pipeline of skilled workers to meet employers’ current needs and will attract new industry to the county and region” Adams said. 

For more information about the Advanced Manufacturing Bootcamp or the SVHEC welding lab contact Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens, SVHEC director of workforce services, at 434-572-5477, toll free 1-800-283-0098 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.