College financial aid to help area workforce

Winchester resident Tina Lemarr-Land flips through the course catalog for the Lord Fairfax Community College's Workforce Solution. Kevin Green/Daily

MIDDLETOWN — Workforce Solutions at Lord Fairfax Community College aims to provide a boost for residents in need of full-time work in the form of new financial aid that will be available this fall.

The college is part of a pilot program through the Virginia General Assembly called Financial Aid For Non-Credit Industry Credentials. Six schools were awareded $50,000 in financial aid for non-credit certification courses.

This aid is available for working residents who meet certain income criteria — among other factors — and is complementary to other grant sources through entities such as Valley Workforce.

Earlier this week, Lord Fairfax instructors and administrators gathered at the Middletown Campus to discuss these funding options with interested residents.

Jeanian Clark, vice president of Workforce Solutions, said, “The General Assembly does not want us spending the commonwealth’s taxpayers’ money if someone is eligible for G.I. (Bill) funding or if someone is eligible for Valley Workforce.”

Granting money through Valley Workforce, Clark said, “Is often targeted for folks that have recently lost their job through no fault of their own and are on unemployment.”

Winchester resident Tina Lemarr-Land and her husband Scott Land were faced with that very scenario in 2011.

Lemarr-Land said her husband was laid off from his administrative position for Parson Brinkerhoff in Herndon, Virginia, and was accepting unemployment for more than a year.

“He was collecting unemployment money, and as that was about to run out, he found out about this program up here,” Lemarr-Land said.

“It’s stressful. I mean, we were doing OK, because we had a very simple lifestyle. But at the same time, you know the unemployment’s going to run out,” she said.

Now, Scott Land works at a plasma cutter job at Winchester Metal making $14.50 an hour.

Lemarr-Land, 39, graduated college in January with a bachelor’s degree in health administration from Ashford University. However, despite the degree and years of administrative experience, Lemarr-Land said she has had a difficult time applying her education.

“In this job economy, it’s not enough,” Lemarr-Land said. “They want you to have experience. However, in order to get experience you have to be hired.”

Lemarr-Land, who now works as a housekeeper, plans to add to her skill set with a 13-week certified medical assistant course.

The evening course starts in October — meaning that Lemarr-Land could work while studying toward receiving the certification in February.

To pay for the $2,900 course, Lemarr-Land wants to make use of the new financial ai, which will fund about 90 percent of that cost, leaving her with a more manageable up-front figure of $200 and a $140 exam fee.

Lemarr-Land said, “It’s not a waste of money … you can really learn a lot. I know I will.”

Clark indicated that she believes they will award all of the funds provied through the General Assembly’s pilot program.

Of the $1.075 million in the program, the state awarded $300,000 in the fall — leaving $775,000 left over for two additional funding periods.

“We’re supposed to get another draw in November and another draw in January,” Clark said. “But if we run out now, I’m inclined to ask for our draw early. Again, that shows demand.”

The newly available financial aid can also help residents like Roy Wilson, of Winchester, who are looking to provide more for their families.

Wilson, 29, is married and has two children. He moved with his family from Berkley Springs, West Virginia, in 2013 for work.

Wilson said that he never had much interest in pursuing an associate’s degree through a four-year institution or a community college.

Instead, he stuck with doing what he knows — working in manufacturing, like his current job at a box factory in the Winchester area.

Wilson said, “I’ve been in manufacturing … most of my life. I figured this [program] would be great to move up in a place like that.”

In wanting to provide more, Wilson said he might be looking into a certification that could more than double his salary in manufacturing. He also mentioned possibly looking into the college’s new commercial driver’s license program.

Wilson said, “Coming from my background, starting a family before going to school … this is great for people in my situation who already have a family and have to work.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com