State program aims to connect, retrain unemployed for workforce

Updated: Aug. 25, 2020 at 11:43 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A new statewide program born out of the pandemic known as Virginia Ready Initiative is searching for unemployed Virginians to apply for the programs in order to be retrained for available in-demand job opportunities across the state.

“We’ve had over a million people who have had to file for new unemployment benefits. Many of those jobs will come back, but unfortunately, many of them won’t,” said the Initiatives’ Chairman Glenn Youngkin. “Virginia Ready is open to anybody who is unemployed. That’s the only requirement, that you don’t have a job now and that you would like to have a new one.”

The program seeks to retrain people for in-demand sectors of the workforce like computer-cyber, manufacturing, and healthcare. Participants of the program will learn these new skill-sets through an accelerated educational program offered statewide through the Community College System in just a matter of 12 weeks.

“What we have found through our corporate partners who we work with is that there are lots of job opening in these sectors, and yet there are not enough people to fill those jobs. Think about that, we have job openings in a time when we have record unemployment,” said Youngkin. “In the world of computer and cyber, it’s cloud technicians or network technicians. In the world of health care, it’s nursing and medical assistants, and in the world of manufacturing it’s welders and electricians and computer aids.”

Youngkin says there are 19 specific occupations in growing workforce sectors that are supported by 30 credentialing programs offered through the community college system across the state that qualifies for Virginia Ready jobs. So far the Virginia Ready Initiative has partnered with 23 community colleges statewide.

Not every course through the Virginia Ready Initiative will be offered at every community college, but because many schools have gone virtual as a result of the pandemic, Youngkin says that participants will be able to take classes remotely even if they live outside of the area where the community college is located.

Within the next two years, organizers hope to retrain and find employment for over 15,000 people.

“There are folks who are currently unemployed who may not know that this exists. These jobs exist!” said Youngkin. “These are good jobs that create a career and we have our first set of graduates coming out of the Virginia Ready program in the next couple of weeks and they have jobs, which is pretty exciting.”

The Virginia Ready Initiative is made possible through partnerships with 20 businesses across Virginia within the workforce sectors of computer and cyber, manufacturing, and healthcare.

“While we have more business partners in Northern Virginia and Richmond particularly, we are looking for and have business partners in the Western part of the state and in the tidewater area,” said Youngkin. “We’re still looking for new business partners, but we’re getting ready to announce our 21st and our 22nd business partners across Virginia.”

The Initiative is also partnered with the FastFoward Initiative, a short-term statewide training program for high in-demand jobs, that pay for two-thirds of community college tuition in addition to the scholarships and financial support available at the school. The Virginia Ready Initiative also awards all participants who complete the program with a $1,000 to offset the financial burden of having to learn a new skill during the pandemic.

“As these thousands of newly trained, newly credentialed future employees for great companies get their credentials. They not only have a new skill and a chance for a new job, but Virginia Ready will award them with a $1,000 Credential Achievement Award,” said Youngkin. “This incentive is really an important part of recognizing that when someone takes on the challenge of retraining and looking for a different career and the sacrifice for time and effort that it requires, this is like a signing bonus for a new job.”

If you would like more information about the Virginia Ready Initiative click HERE.

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