Community-college program aims to connect veterans with good jobs

Marine Corp veteran Dave Graf was laid off from his job in 2009, shortly after returning from two tours of duty in Iraq as a helicopter maintainer and gunner. He then decided to use his G.I. Bill benefits and enroll in Blue Ridge Community College where he earned a total of four postsecondary credentials in aviation and automotive maintenance, including two associate’s degrees – all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

“It had been a dream of mine to have the credentials to back up the skills I knew I had as an aircraft and auto mechanic. I could do both at BRCC,” said Graf who quickly leveraged his credentials into a good-paying career. “It seemed the best way to maintain my lifestyle.”

Graf’s story is not unique. And it represents the goal of a new series of grants announced jointly by the Office of Governor Bob McDonnell and Virginia’s Community Colleges.

Up to $1.25 million in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Rapid Response Assistance funds are available to build strategic partnerships aimed at connecting veterans who have recently separated from their military service, as well as eligible military spouses, with good-paying jobs in high-demand fields.

Speaking about the announcement, Governor McDonnell said, “Our returning veterans have already developed many leadership skills that employers look for. This program holds the promise to help more veterans in Virginia translate those skills to high-demand jobs. They have stood up for the Commonwealth and we must open the doors of our colleges and universities to them.”

Secretary of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs Terrie Suit said, “As more men and women return from bravely serving in the defense of freedom, we must do all we can to support them in their transition. I look forward to the proposals submitted for these competitive grants to do just that.”

Individual grants proposals can apply for a maximum award of $250,000. Each proposal must include a Virginia Community College; a Local Workforce Investment Board; a local VEC Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program; and a Local Veterans’ Employment Representative. Proposals may also include education and training providers as well as faith-based and community based organizations.

“Community Colleges are at their best when they can connect local people and resources to address unmet community needs,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Community colleges have focused on serving veterans since I was a community college student. We’re proud of that legacy and eager to build on it with these innovative grants.”

More than 823,000 veterans live in Virginia, according to statistics released last year by the Department of Veterans Services.

Proposals for funding will be accepted until December 19, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. The full RFP is available on the VCCS website under Workforce Grants.

Augusta Health Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press