Dr. Quentin R. Johnson

The Re-Employing Virginians (REV) Initiative Can Help Rev-Up Our Workforce

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.
 

Employment data for Virginia present a complicated picture. In 2019 before COVID-19 shutdowns impacted the economy, Virginia reported an unemployment rate of only 2.7%. During 2020, the rate skyrocketed to 14.4% before sliding back down. Recent statistics peg it at 4.5%.

Yet, job seekers say they still can’t find jobs, and employers say they can’t find workers to fill open positions. One piece of this puzzle appears to be a mismatch between the skills sought and those held by unemployed and underemployed workers.

To help address this, Virginia’s governor created the Re-Employing Virginians (REV) initiative as part of the statewide response under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the U.S. Congress last year. REV Training Vouchers provide funds for job training in high-demand areas such as early childhood education, healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, skilled trades, and public safety. The REV program began last October and will expire at the end of this year.

Tammy Wiley and Cameron Vassar are two of the REV Coaches SVCC currently employed to guide students who have become unemployed or underemployed as a result of the pandemic. Their duties include enrolling students, helping them succeed during course work, and assisting in job-seeking activities through connections with local employers, career counseling, and help with practical tasks such as creating resumes and writing cover letters. Plans for a career fair are also underway.

Marsha Hawkins, a current student who worked with Wiley as her REV Coach, remembers hearing that her job would end. “I was shocked and lost as to what my future would hold. At age 61 I had to make a decision. I knew that I needed benefits, such as medical and life insurance; therefore, I had to do something quickly. My decision was to go back to school to learn a new trade. My course of study is Medical Office Assistant, which is a two-year program with an AAS degree. Tammy worked with me on getting financial assistance. Tammy also assisted me in getting my schedule together. I was a little overwhelmed trying to do it myself. So far, my classes have not been easy because my brain cells were asleep. However, I am doing well and Tammy checks on me often to make sure I’m OK and to see if I need any assistance in anything. I’m a true believer that if one door closes, God has another one opened and waiting for us to walk in.”

Several factors guide eligibility. Workers who received unemployment benefits after August 1, 2020, even if they also received prior benefits, are eligible. Also, workers who transitioned from full-time to part-time jobs as a result of the pandemic are eligible if they are currently earning less than $15 per hour. Training vouchers up to $1,500 assist workforce and part-time students, and vouchers up to $3,000 are available for full-time students. Furthermore, as Wiley explains, “If we cannot obtain all required funding through the REV program, we do our best to exhaust other available resources.”

Vassar adds, “I’d love for everyone to take advantage of this opportunity to expand career options. We’re trying to help as many people as we can.”

For more information about REV eligibility, training voucher amounts, and qualifying programs, please visit SVCC’s website (southside.edu) or call 434-949-1021.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.

Community College Tuition: A Good Deal and a Great Investment

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

For the fourth year in a row, tuition at Southside Virginia Community College will remain unchanged. The State Board for Community Colleges made the decision by unanimous vote earlier this year. As a result, tuition at Virginia’s community colleges represent an unparalleled value in education.

The tuition rate of $154 per credit hour represents approximately one-third of the comparable cost to attend one of Virginia’s public four-year universities, but the tuition savings is only part of the picture. A host of financial aid options are also available. In fact, according to recent data, 90% of first-time students at SVCC received financial aid. The average annual amount awarded each recipient totaled $5,224.

Sources of financial assistance include Federal Pell Grants, which are available to qualifying students based on financial need. Several statewide initiatives for community college students also help lessen education costs. For example, grants made under the Re-Employing Virginians (REV) program provide assistance to qualifying students who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Get Skilled, Get a Job, and Get Ahead (G3) program provides funding for Virginians who are seeking training for in-demand careers in fields with high-value wages. The FastForward Credential Program provides funding to cover two-thirds of the cost of attending short-term training programs that prepare students to embark on career pathways in a wide variety of technical fields.

In addition, approximately 250 students each semester receive aid through the SVCC Foundation. These local scholarships support students at a wide range of levels, from moderate help in paying for textbooks and supplies, to major assistance that covers full tuition. Awards are based on diverse criteria, such as program of study, county of residence, year in school, and academic performance. Funding for these scholarships comes from the generosity of alumni, employees, organizations, companies, and others in the region who understand the value of education and training for as many people in our service area as possible.

Long time SVCC board member Lisa Tharpe, and her husband Tim Tharpe of J.R. Tharpe Trucking have an established track record of aiding students in SVCC's Truck Driver Training program. Mrs. Tharpe explains, “The Truck Driver Training Program is a valuable resource to our company. Support of this program and its students is a great investment in our future workforce.”

Ray Thomas of Brunswick Insurance Agency is another benefactor. He says, “My family has a long history of providing scholarship support to Brunswick County students so they can attend SVCC.  My dad, Gene Thomas, was instrumental in setting up the SVCC Foundation, and we understand the value of community college education.”

One thing students at SVCC do not receive is debt. National statistics regarding federal student loan obligations suggest that many college students leave the classroom with staggering amounts of debt. The credit rating agency Experian reported that the aggregate amount of outstanding student debt at the end of 2020 was nearly $1.6 trillion, with an average individual student balance of $38,792. Instead of contributing to this burden, SVCC chooses to help students find sources of funding that do not have to be repaid. As a result, the federal student loan amount encumbered at SVCC by our graduates is $0. That’s right, zero!

I invite you to maximize the benefit of your education dollars. Visit www.southside.edu for links to more information about SVCC’s programs of study, enrollment options, and financial aid availability.  Again, SVCC tuition is a Good Deal and a Great Investment!

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.

Subscribe to RSS - Dr. Quentin R. Johnson