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Virginia Ready Initiative opens up to all Virginians

Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 5:11 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Ready Initiative, which launched last year to retrain people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, is expanding its eligibility to all Virginians.

The program partners with community colleges to allow people to take courses and earn certifications in the industries of manufacturing, information technology and healthcare - industries that have had rolling openings.

Powhatan resident James Sayles went through the program in the summer of 2020. He was one of many who was out of work last year. But instead of grieving for his lost job, he instead tapped into one of his dream careers.

“I’ve been wanting to be a truck driver all my life, always said ‘Hey, I’d go out and see the world,’” said Sayles.

These days, Sayles spends his time behind the wheel of a big rig.

“I get to travel from Richmond to New Jersey and back. Sometimes I go to Virginia Beach and Chantilly,” said Sayles.

Just a year ago, he was in a totally different industry.

“I had been an electrician all of my life. For the last eight years of being an electrician, I was in electrical sales. It didn’t really work out very well with COVID-19, so I ended up losing my job,” said Sayles.

Sayles has a second lease on life, and work, thanks to the Virginia Ready Initiative.

“Two-thousand Virginians have found the courage to go back to school to get trained. Of those 2,000, 44% are Black, 55% are women,” said Caren Merrick, CEO of Virginia Ready.

She said the program was focused on those who had lost their jobs, but now opened its eligibility to any Virginian who wants to learn a new skill.

The program came about from a public-private partnership between the Virginia Community College System, and 24 business partners including Dominion Energy, Bank of America and Genworth Financial.

Sayles says losing his job was a big hit to his ego, but he was determined not to let it define him.

“I’m trying to do something with it. You hear about mid-life crises, I think this is one I’m trying to make the better of; instead of just going to buy a Corvette and see how fast I can go,” he added.

In addition, those who complete the program will be given a $1,000 Credential Achievement Award. Application information can be found, HERE.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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