Winchester resident Ed Breeden had worked 23 years as a general laborer at Zuckerman Company Inc., a metal recycling plant when owners announced they were closing.
“I was scared. What do I do now,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what to do, but my boss talked to us, gave us ideas.”
Breeden, who left James Wood High School in the 10th grade, had not been in school in 30 years. He looked to Lord Fairfax Community College to start to rebuild his life by getting his GED.
Halfway through the program, school officials came to Breeden and told him about the PluggedIn VA program, an education and career training program offered through the schools adult education. It helps students attain academic, computer and work readiness skills, along with their training in a trade or health-related field. Instructors told him it would help him obtain professional certifications in high-demand professions.
Breeden, who said he did not even own a computer, enrolled in digital literacy and career readiness certificate programs.
“I had no computer experience at all,” he said.
Soon, he was enrolled in the manufacturing training trade program as well, which is part of the school’s Workforce Solutions Program, which stems from the PluggedIn VA program.
“I did research the class before I signed up,” Breeden said. “There was a lot of math, chemistry, measurements. I thought, well, I was pretty good at measurements and pretty good at math so soon I was doing all three at once, but I had a lot of support.”
He not only received his GED but he also obtained digital literacy, a career readiness certificate, and his manufacturing technician credential as well, making him more desirable to an employer.
Breeden was recognized by Virginia’s Community Colleges System, a group of 23 community colleges in Virginia, for receiving the 10,000th workforce credential from the group’s FastForward job-training program.
Breeden, who is a father of three and a grandfather of four, said he has a job waiting for him at Ashworth Brothers in Winchester, where he will earn a 40 percent higher wage and have benefits once his work at Zuckerman Company is done.
That means a little breathing room for him and his family.
“That is really going to make a difference financially in the household,” Breeden said.
It has also helped him personally, he said.
“I feel more confident now going out into the workforce. I feel more confident even just talking to people,” Breeden said.