Press Release - 01/25/19

CVCC Delegation Honors Virginia State Delegate Kathy Byron

LYNCHBURG, VA – As Virginia lawmakers consider additional funding for the FastForward workforce training through Virginia’s Community Colleges, three CVCC workforce graduates traveled to Richmond on behalf of Chancellor Glenn DuBois to present a special award to Lynchburg Delegate Kathy Byron and tell her how training at CVCC changed their lives. Farley Dickey, Natalie Niehaus and Jamaul Taylor accompanied CVCC President Dr. John Capps on a trip 
to the General Assembly office of Delegate Byron to present her with the Dana Hamel Award for Leadership and Service to Virginia’s Community Colleges. 

Named for the system’s founding Chancellor, the Dana B. Hamel Award is the highest VCCS honor bestowed on an individual or group to recognize an extraordinary accomplishment or deed that advances the mission of the VCCS. 

Delegate Byron was chief co-patron of legislation in 2016 to create Virginia’s New Economy Workforce Credential Grants, which in just two years have helped put more than 12,000 newly skilled workers into Virginia’s economy in jobs that employers are eager to fill.  Those grants supported FastForward short-term training programs offered at community colleges across the state.

“The credit for the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program belongs to Delegate Byron,” said Dr. Capps. “Her legislation has benefited thousands of Virginians by providing them with opportunities for noncredit training that simply did not exist before. Everyone is a winner, including students, their families, business and industry, and Virginia’s economy.”

Following the award presentation, the three CVCC FastForward graduates, Farley Dickey, Natalie Niehaus and Jamaul Taylor, shared their success stories with Delegate Byron. “The job training gave me my life back,” said Dickey, who struggled with PTSD following her military service.  Today, after earning a medical certification through CVCC’s FastForward program, she is a pediatric medical assistant in Lynchburg. “I've been able to go to work every day with a smile on my face.”

After both she and her husband struggled after a serious auto accident, former CVCC student Niehaus explained that FastForward training at CVCC gave her the knowledge and encouragement to go into information technology services.  Now employed as an IT technician at Liberty University, Niehaus told Byron, “Without this grant, I would never have been able to take these classes which literally changed my life. I feel like the world is achievable now.”

On a different note, just out of high school, Jamaul Taylor worked for retail and customer service positions, but didn’t find a field where he thought he could grow.  He saw an advertisement for CVCC’s FastForward Manufacturing Technician Training programs and thought that would assist him in obtaining a position in his field of interest.  In the fall of 2017, Taylor began the Manufacturing Specialist FastForward Training Program at CVCC where he successfully earned his Manufacturing Specialist credential from the Virginia Manufacturers Association’s Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI). He continued to earn the next level of certification by obtaining his Manufacturing Technician 1 certification, also from MSI in spring of 2018. Taylor said, “The training was very broad and covered just about everything that you would encounter in a manufacturing environment.”  

Delegate Byron said it was moving to hear how FastForward training has changed these students’ lives. “These are great and heartwarming stories; they brought tears to my eyes,” Byron said. “We have a budget amendment this year to try and get some more funding so we can assist more people.  We hope to be able 
to encourage economic development in our area and give people opportunities to train for jobs that employers need to fill.”

In the current budget year, the state has invested $9.5 million in state grants to boost FastForward workforce training programs. If Byron’s budget amendment passes, that investment would double in the coming budget year.

Supporting statistics show that CVCC and Virginia's other 22 community colleges have helped individuals earn more than 12,000 industry-recognized credentials. These graduates are helping fill the skills gap plaguing Virginia businesses. Of the credentials FastForward graduates earned, 98 percent were in the commonwealth's 12 leading occupations, as defined by employer demand. 

Furthermore, Workforce Credentials Grants that help fund FastForward programs offer individuals the fastest way out of poverty. Studies show that one in five of FastForward training program graduates received public assistance prior to entering the program. Yet, following completion, program graduates are seeing an increase in their take home pay in the range of 25 percent to 50 percent. Graduates are also experiencing other benefits like employer-provided healthcare, schedule consistency, and other traits expected of good jobs. 

Lastly, graduates of these programs are earning more money and contributing more to the Commonwealth. After studying a small state-wide group of graduates who earned their credentials in 2017, these former students earned $81 million — a $15 million increase over their previous year's earnings. Accordingly, they paid an additional $4 million in state taxes, benefitting Virginia's General Fund.