Dozens of students at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College have benefitted from a program that helps to fund fast-track training programs for eligible applicants in high-demand jobs – from commercial driver and manufacturing technician, to phlebotomy technician and EMT - according to FastForward Career Coach Brooke Shehan, who oversees the aptly named “FastForward" program.
“FastForward provides short-term training to allow students to get back to work quickly or start a new career or even expand their skills, by completing that training and getting a credential in weeks or months rather than several semesters," says Shehan. “And there is substantial financial assistance available. Many students are also eligible for FANTIC, which is income-based assistance for qualifying Virginia residents. In many cases, students could pay less than $100 for training."
Since its inception at DSLCC in 2016, FastForward training programs have been extremely successful. Nearly 275students have enrolled in FastForward workforce programs at DSLCC; that number includes 115 students in just the last six months. There are a number of classes starting in the next several weeks, says Shehan, either on the DSLCC Clifton Forge campus or at the DSLCC Rockbridge Regional Center in Buena Vista. Most courses run anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, meeting a couple of nights a week, and occasionally on the weekend. FastForward programs offer a variety of start dates.
Of the students who have completed their training through DSLCC, 74 percent earned industry-recognized credentials, such as the Virginia Commercial Driver's License – Class A Endorsement or a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant. Obtaining credentials like those increases the likelihood of getting hired, notes Shehan.
In fact, the Virginia Community College System states on the FastForwardva.org website that residents with workforce credentials are twice as likely to be hired over applicants with no credentials, and FastForward credentialing typically boost take-home pay by 25 to 50 percent.
“Our most popular training is CDL," says Shehan. “It's a great job with local employment opportunities and great pay. Our next most popular is Phlebotomy Technician, but we have many other great training programs that FastForward will help fund."
Gary Keener, Vice President of Workforce Solutions and Community Education at DSLCC, understands the impact that career training programs, specifically FastForward, can have on lives of local residents and the community at large. “Our local employers are in dire need of skilled, trained workers in areas like what we offer at DSLCC; industry and healthcare relate fields" says Keener. “Opportunities are available. It's about taking that first step."
In addition to the courses already named, the following are offered: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA); Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA); Pharmacy Technician; Core-Introductory Craft Skills; Electrical (levels 1 through 4); Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (levels 1 through 4); Millwright (levels 1 through 5); Pipefitting (levels 1 -4); and four types of Arc Welding - Flux Core, Gas Metal, Gas Tungsten and Shielded Metal.
A new CNA course begins March 4 at the Jackson River Technical Center; a Pharmacy Technician course begins March 11 and a Phlebotomy Technician course begins April 1, both on the Clifton Forge campus. Two professional welding courses begin February 4 at the Botetourt Technical Education Center in Fincastle. The next CDL class begins February 2 on the main campus. An EMT course is already underway, and is expected to be offered again next fall.
As the FastForward Career Coach, Shehan not only helps potential students fill out the application for the program and financial assistance, she also helps them pick the program that best fits their needs. During the course of their studies, she will contact each student, see if they need help studying for the certification exam, go over their resumes, and ask about career goals or job placement. Occasionally students will also continue on to the next level of training, and FastForward can often help with that. In addition, training through the FastForward programs and Workforce Division of DSLCC, helps prepare students to continue their education, if they so choose, into career and technical education and associate degree programs.
Shehan often connects students with other community partners and supportive resources to help students achieve their career goals. It's all about helping the student, she says.
For a comprehensive list of training courses offered this semester, check the DSLCC web site at www.dslcc.edu/workforce or contact Shehan at (540) 863-2848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Her office is located in McCarthy Hall on the DSLCC Clifton Forge campus.