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Virginia’s Community Colleges expand FastForward workforce training in rapidly growing solar energy, heavy construction sectors

RICHMOND—Virginia’s Community Colleges today announced a $4 million economic investment over the next two years to support curriculum development and FastForward workforce training in the rapidly growing fields of utility-scale solar energy and heavy construction. Select community colleges will develop programs that can be expanded across the commonwealth as the demand grows for skilled workers in these fields.
 
VIRGINIA SOLAR WORKFORCE INITIATIVE
 
Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) will receive funds to work with businesses in the energy industry to develop and deploy the Virginia Solar Workforce Initiative, a first-in-the-state curriculum and training program for the utility-scale solar industry. The need for utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, who earn an average starting salary of $42,000-50,000, is emerging in Virginia, and the U.S. Department of Energy reports the solar energy sector is poised for robust growth.
 
“The Virginia Solar Workforce Initiative is an exceptional example of a public-private partnership,” said Dr. Al Roberts, president of Southside Virginia Community College. “These jobs represent an excellent opportunity for Virginians to be a part of this dynamic, high-growth industry, and we’re excited to partner with industry leaders in the utility-scale solar field, the Maryland-DC-Delaware-Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association, to create this program.”
 
VCCS HEAVY CONSTRUCTION PROGRAMS
 
The new grants also will increase access to FastForward training for workers in the heavy construction industry.  Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC), Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC), and Germanna Community College (GCC) will team up to develop a curriculum and statewide training capabilities for courses that support Virginia’s development sector.
In partnership with the Heavy Construction Contractors Association (HCCA) and the Virginia Asphalt Association (VAA), the colleges will establish online access to training programs in the principles and practices of road building and other major infrastructure projects. 
 
“The expanded initiative provides an opportunity to truly create a pipeline of current and future employees who will reap the rewards of a well-paid and rewarding career pathway,” said Ken Garrison, Executive Director of the Heavy Construction Contractors Association. “We have worked collaboratively with LFCC to build the pilot program and our firms benefited from hiring the graduates.”
 
“We look forward to working in partnership with our sister colleges to scale and expand the program in order to serve more employers and give access to more job seekers to obtain these high demand industry credentials,” said Kimberly Blosser, president of LFCC.
 
The average starting salary in Virginia for heavy equipment operators is $43,000 a year. 
 
Since July of 2016, Virginians who trained in FastForward programs at community colleges have earned more than 11,000 valuable industry recognized workforce credentials. FastForward training programs are specifically geared toward the needs of local businesses and offer students affordable access to new careers in weeks or months instead of semesters and years.
 
“FastForward is benefitting both the individuals who earn credentials in high demand fields and the businesses that are eager to hire skilled employees,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “These strategic investments will bolster those talent pipelines feeding these emerging industries and prepare even more people for these good-paying careers.”
 
Find out more about FastForward at www.fastforwardva.org.

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