LFCC, Shentel announce new partnership

Shentel President Chris French, left, and Cheryl Thompson-Stacey, president of Lord Fairfax Community College, sign an agreement for a new partnership that promises more job opportunities for students. Kevin Green/Daily

MIDDLETOWN – Lord Fairfax Community College and Shenandoah Telecommunications Company have formed an expanded partnership to boost employment opportunities for students.

Richard “Rich” Baughman, vice president of information technology for Shentel, said the two parties had been talking for several months before the deal was finalized.

“Shentel has really supported Lord Fairfax for years, so it kind of made sense,” Baughman said.

On Thursday, representatives from Shentel and Lord Fairfax as well as Lord Fairfax graduates were on-hand at the Corron Community Development Center, where the two sides formally signed the partnership agreement.

During Thursday’s ceremony, Shentel President Chris French said, “While this is a new partnership, we’ve had a relationship with the college for a long time. Many of our employees have benefited from Lord Fairfax.”

Cheryl Thompson-Stacey, president of the community college, said, “Student loan debt is a serious issue in this country, and it’s even more painful when someone has graduated with a very expensive four-year degree and can’t find that good-paying job.”

Thompson-Stacey added, “There are many people in our communities that are under-employed and don’t have the credentials to get a good-paying job.”

With the expanded partnership, the two parties are going to be working closely to provide jobs, internship opportunities and hands-on work-study opportunities for the community college’s students.

“We’re going to hold job fairs here a couple of times a year for students,” Baughman said, adding that they will also look to provide on-the-job training for students.

“Two-thirds of the jobs that Virginia will need to fill in the next 10 years will require post-secondary education, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree,” Thompson-Stacey said. “They’ll require associate degrees, certificates, work force credentials.”

Baughman said that cyber security and programming will be major areas of emphasis for the program.

Thompson-Stacey noted that the Virginia General Assembly awarded Lord Fairfax $100,000 to “enhance our career and technical education program offerings” with a new cyber security program.

Art Lee, a professor in the college’s programming and database program, said he thinks this program will be a major boost for students at the college.

“It’s gonna give them an opportunity to transfer what we can present to them in a classroom setting,” Lee said. “… It’s going to be able to kind of immerse them into the corporate environment.”

Lee said this is something that Lord Fairfax has tried and flirted with connections like this in the past, but that opportunities for students were limited.

“We would, on occasion, have businesses approach or we would try to approach certain businesses to try to connect students into an internship, but we never really had a formal program,” Lee said.

Baughman indicated the first offerings of the program will be unfurled next spring.

“We’ll just have to see how it works out and what things work best for them. “I’m sure the first year or so will be kind of a growing (experience) for us,” he said.

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