College awarded $3.25 million grant to fund job skills

By Josette Keelor

A grant for $3.25 million will allow Lord Fairfax Community College to provide better job training to area students and residents out of work.

Part of a $450 million effort announced Monday by Vice President Biden, the job-driven training grants were awarded to almost 270 community colleges across the country.

The purpose, according to a news release posted at the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, http://www.dol.gov, is to train America’s workers with skills needed to acquire a good job. The money will help middle class families and help American businesses grow the economy, the release said.

It should also bring new students to the college, said John Milam, director of planning and institutional effectiveness at the Middletown-based school.

Part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training, the grant money will fund a search engine that will help area unemployed or underemployed residents find available jobs and learn the skills they’ll need for those jobs, for free or at a lower cost through credit and non-credit learning resources.

He said he expects the program to encourage an increase in enrollment from those who might not otherwise have considered broadening their job training skills in the college arena.

“The difference is that we’re focusing specifically on job openings in these,” he said. “We expect enrollment to grow because of it and just kind of meet people where the jobs are.”

Though he was familiar with the grant, Milam said he was surprised to learn that the college was a recipient.

“We got a copy of the press release on Monday morning,” he said. Later, “We actually did get a letter from the secretary of labor, an email, and then we saw it officially [on the] White House website.”

“That made me feel good about it,” he said.

The grant money requires the college to adhere to a specific budget that includes Knowledge to Work, a “new type of educational search engine.”

The program targets 10 regional employers in healthcare, IT and advanced manufacturing — Valley Health, Fauquier Hospital, Shockey, Shentel, Ashworth, O’Sullivan Films, Kraft, Evolve Manufacturing, Frederick County Public Schools and Winchester City Public Schools.

The experience will aid students through portfolios, prior learning assessment, apprenticeships and wraparound support services.

The grant also covers the cost of new faculty, a career coach, adult basic education and Workforce Navigator positions.

Other partners are Microsoft and the American Health Information Management Association, Valley Health, the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Investment Board, Goodwill of the Valleys and Horizon Goodwill Industries.

“It’s finding jobs already there,” Milam said.

Contact Lord Fairfax Community College at 540-868-7000 or http://www.lfcc.edu.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com