Virginia Community Colleges Collaborate To Build Infrastructure Workforce
Virginia’s community colleges are looking to graduate 35,000 infrastructure workers in a wide range of fields across the next five years as part of a statewide collaboration.
The recently announced Virginia Infrastructure Academy will coordinate and scale up infrastructure training programs at community colleges statewide, the Virginia Community College System announced last week.
The Virginia Infrastructure Academy will focus on areas where workers are most needed, according to the release. Those programs include broadband expansion, wind and solar energy, and heavy construction and maintenance with a focus on roads, bridges and tunnels.
“The availability of a trained, skilled workforce continues to stand out as a significant challenge to infrastructure construction and maintenance industries in the commonwealth,” Virginia Community College System Interim Chancellor Sharon Morrissey said in the release. “Through the VIA initiative, we will continue to leverage resources, expand collaboration and provide short-term industry training and credentials leading to employment for thousands of Virginians.”
The new infrastructure training initiative comes as Virginia is expected to receive at least $10 billion via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress last year.
Startup costs for the program will be funded by a two-year $400,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation, according to the release.
Virginia Secretary of Labor George “Bryan” Slater called the infrastructure training program “vital to the success of many Virginia businesses” in the release.
“Our infrastructure workforce demands are growing daily, and initiatives like the Virginia Infrastructure Academy will help ensure that skilled and qualified people are available for hire, leading to a best-in-class workforce in Virginia,” Slater said.
Community colleges have seen drops in enrollment since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that career and technical education programs saw an enrollment rebound this spring.
Construction programs saw a 19.3% increase, mechanic and repair programs saw an 11.5% increase, precision and production programs saw a 16.7% increase, and culinary programs saw a 12.7% increase.
The U.S. Department of Labor has looked to community colleges to increase career and technical education in recent months: Community colleges received millions in apprenticeship grants last month. Community colleges are also set to play a key role in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Good Jobs Challenge, which includes workforce training partnerships.