By Zach Armstrong
(PETERSBURG, Va) -- Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1.1 million Virginians have filed for unemployment. Hundreds of thousands who have lost their jobs are now challenged with working part-time, being furloughed or possibly even being evicted.
Pockets of job demand have remained consistent during the pandemic in well-paying industries such as manufacturing, information technology and health care. Virginia Ready, a non-profit that began over the summer in response to the economic fallout, is giving those with disrupted employment $1,000 in financial assistance for community college credentials to get their foot in the door of those industries.
“We said ‘Wait, there are tens of thousands of jobs that are sitting empty?’ but yet there’s this massive economic disruption,” said Glenn Youngkin, founder of Virginia Ready.
The nonprofit has partnered with all of the commonwealth’s community colleges and a substantial amount of its major employers to assist Virginians that had their employment disrupted enter short-term training programs that often take 6-12 weeks to complete.
Under the state’s Fast Forward program, those enrolled in community college credentials already have ⅔ of their tuition paid for. Virginia Ready attempts to give people an additional financial incentive of one thousand dollars to help cover the remaining costs for credentials that the nonprofit confirms is in a high-growth sector.
Participants must be a resident of Virginia, have their employment disrupted, and enroll for community college training credentials approved by the organization. Once a participant achieves their training credential, they are awarded the money.
Virginia Ready currently has approximately 1,000 participants who are either fully enrolled or are in the process of enrolling and has had the success of 600 participants completing the program. 100 of those that have completed the program have already received their $1,000 reward.
“We're encouraged by the rapid progress to help Virginians find new careers.” said Youngkin. “Going through this program takes a real commitment and we've heard back with lots of our scholars that it's incredibly encouraging to be learning a brand new skill in a high growth industry along with the excitement of getting a job afterwards.”
The nonprofit’s employer partnerships assisted Virginia Ready financially and gave guidance on what credentials and skills given at many community colleges they are most commonly hiring for. Some of the most promising occupations across the state, according to Virginia Ready, include medical assistance; network technicians; welders; coding and billing specialists; powerline workers; marine technicians; and pharmacy techs.
“These are growing sectors that have real demand for people so people who gain skills in health care, technology or manufacturing are really setting themselves up for a career,” said Youngkin. “Getting a credential in a high growth sector puts yourself in the best workforce resilience capacity that you could put yourself in.”