RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the launch of a $2 million initiative to attract young adults in Virginia to high-demand jobs through FastForward training programs at Virginia’s Community Colleges. The effort will link together proven and highly successful training, career coaching, and job placement services to address the historically challenging issue of youth employment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, more than 105,000 Virginians, between ages of 18 and 24, are neither attending school nor working. The unemployment rate in Virginia for this age group at 12% is nearly four times the rate for the Commonwealth as a whole.
Capitalizing on the success of the FastForward workforce training program, which helps Virginians get the jobs they want and the salaries they need through fast-track credential training courses, the initiative will provide 18- to 24-year-old Virginians with career exploration and planning, accelerated occupational skills training, supportive services, digital and soft skills training, and job placement assistance.
“The well-paying jobs of the 21st century are in what we call ‘new collar’ sectors—those that require skills, but not necessarily a four-year college degree. In order for our Commonwealth to maintain a highly-skilled, attractive workforce we need to make sure that every student has the opportunity to create a successful future,” said Governor Northam. “With this initiative we will help prepare young Virginians with the skills and training that employers are looking for and provide critical support to our youth as they start to build careers.”
This initiative will launch at five community colleges: Thomas Nelson, on the Virginia peninsula; John Tyler and J. Sargeant Reynolds, in the Richmond area; and Southside and Patrick Henry, in Southern Virginia.
Each of community college will partner with their local workforce development boards and other community partners to recruit and train young adults to fill jobs in high-demand fields that employers struggle to hire for, such as healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology. In addition to providing short-term workforce training, the initiative will develop consistent and expedited methods to award college credit for the training students complete, so that they will be able return to the college and more quickly complete certificates or degrees in the same field as their training.
“These credential training programs, while tied to the demands of local businesses, are meant to be stackable,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Not every person, fresh out of high school, wants to attend a university. This creates another important pathway for those young people to move forward, find success, and begin building a career.”
The two-year project will cover student costs associated with tuition, fees, books, and examinations for credentials approved under the FastForward program. The first-in-the-nation, pay-for-performance workforce training program has delivered more than 11,000 credentials in high demand industries over the past two years. It depends on close partnerships among regional businesses, colleges, and workforce development boards to ensure that college training programs are directly aligned to industries that have jobs available at the conclusion of a student’s training. Businesses often advise on curricular content, provide instructors, and offer internships or other work-based learning opportunities for students.
“Across the Commonwealth, there are thousands of high-paying, quality jobs available in industries like shipbuilding, construction, and manufacturing,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “This initiative will help raise awareness among young people about these lucrative opportunities, highlight affordable ways to gain in-demand skills, and meet the current and future hiring needs of Virginia’s employers.”