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DOL awards $5M to Virginia community colleges for careers in data center construction

Rebecca Barnabi
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News of the $5 million Department of Labor (DOL) award, the highest amount available, could not have come at a better time for Virginia’s community colleges.

“Our colleges are poised to deliver the kind of 21ST century education Virginians need to secure gainful employment in today’s high-demand industries,” he noted. “And with the state focused on growing its economy and our emphasis on helping to fill the workforce gap, this funding will go a long way,” Dr. David Doré, Chancellor for the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), said.

Awarded through the DOL’s Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program, the new funding will help VCCS to design, develop and grow training programs and work-based learning opportunities that prepare job seekers for high-demand career pathways in the growing field of data center construction and operations, as well as the broadband expansion industry.

“I am pleased to congratulate VCCS and all they collaborated with on this fantastic award as it will provide tremendous opportunities for Virginia’s businesses and workers,” Virginia Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater said. “This public-private collaboration between our workforce agencies and local employers is exactly what the commonwealth needs to continue to grow its economy and maintain its status as the best state to live, work and raise a family.”

Seven of Virginia’s community colleges will use the funding to expand training capacity and prepare workers in skilled labor roles.

“Coordinating workforce programs across Virginia state government is the key to success, and the VCCS is a committed collaborative partner in what we are doing in standing up the new Virginia Department of Workforce Development and Advancement,” Slater said.

The demand for skilled labor has fallen in recent months, but Virginia still has nearly 200,000 job vacancies. Doré suggests the numbers may fluctuate, but the commitment to Virginia’s business community remains the same.

The Virginia Infrastructure Academy (VIA), now entering its second year of operations, will be one of the key beneficiaries of the grant, especially for broadband expansion.

“The workers trained in these technologies will be employed by the businesses that build data centers, and their skills will travel to other similar projects when other projects arise,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Career Education and Workforce Programs Randy Stamper said.

Virginia’s community colleges have provided opportunities to learn and develop the right skills through higher education since 1966. VCCS is comprised of 23 schools serving approximately 205,000 students every year.

“The demand for heavy-equipment operators, plumbers, welders, electricians, and power line workers is steadily increasing,” Doré said. “It’s our job to provide the training employers need to remain competitive on a global stage and we intend to fulfill our obligations with enthusiasm.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.