Virginia Economic Review: Second Quarter 2022

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C O N V E R S AT I O N S W IT H THOUGHT LEADERS: Earl Buford Council for Adult and Experiential Learning Anne Kress Northern Virginia Community College

The Talent Connection Virginia institutions and companies are working together to create a talent powerhouse at home


Virginia Beach has 28 miles of public beaches and 38 miles of shoreline. Horseback riding is allowed on the city’s beaches with a permit.


Contents 16 Inside the Partnerships That Bolster Virginia’s Businesses 16 innovative workforce solutions that grew from partnerships between Virginia businesses and educational institutions


Northern Virginia Community College Tech Partnerships


HII Shipbuilding Training


Mack Trucks and Virginia Western Community College Skills Training


Netflix Pathways Bootcamps


Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers (GO TEC)


ADP HCM Academy @ ODU


GCubed, Inc. and Germanna Community College Cybersecurity Training


Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME)


Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center (VMASC)


United Way of Southwest Virginia Youth Success Initiatives


Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI)


Rappahannock Community College Welding Training


Blue Ridge Community College Cybersecurity Training


Trex Company, Inc. and Laurel Ridge Community College Leadership Training


Piedmont Virginia Community College Craft Beverage Training


Central Virginia Community College CTE Academy

04 Facts & Figures

06 Selected Virginia Wins

10 When Education Meets Employment: A Conversation With Earl Buford 52 Creating Positive Outcomes for Students and Employers: A Conversation With Anne Kress

58 From Virginia to the World

62 Regional Spotlight

68 Economic Development Partners in Virginia

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Breaks Interstate Park on the Kentucky border is one of two jointly administered interstate parks in the country. The park has worked with the Central Appalachian Climbers Coalition to install more than 300 rock climbing routes.


Educational Institutions Think Outside the Box in Preparing Talent in Virginia THE AVAILABILITY of skilled labor

has become the most important factor in site location decisions for companies. As a result, the race to develop talent is as important as ever. Across Virginia, that effort has taken the form of innovative partnerships between companies and educational institutions to provide a pipeline of skilled talent while also striving to create better employment outcomes for students. These partnerships can take many forms — leadership training modules developed by community colleges, campaigns aimed at exposing students to potential careers at younger ages, and programs designed to increase diversity in industries where it may be lacking at a national level. Companies in need are finding Virginia’s educational institutions and community partners to be enthusiastic participants in creating a top-notch, sustainable workforce. This issue of Virginia Economic Review goes into detail on several such partnerships between education and industry. The educational partners that are working together to help solve workforce issues come from Virginia’s major research universities, community colleges, and the K-12 education system. Companies as large and diverse as Amazon, Netflix, ADP, and Mack Trucks have found that Virginia’s educational institutions offer fertile ground for innovative workforce development initiatives.

The issue also goes in depth on VEDP’s Virginia International Trade Alliance (VITAL) program, which pairs companies in need with student researchers at Virginia universities to develop customized business plans and market research aimed at improving export readiness. Also included are conversations with two thought leaders with deep experience in workforce development partnerships: Earl Buford, president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, and Dr. Anne Kress, president of Northern Virginia Community College. We hope you enjoy this look into these innovative partnerships and the ways they benefit businesses, communities, and employees alike. Best regards,

Jason El Koubi President and CEO, Virginia Economic Development Partnership


Facts Figures 1

1 Thomas Jefferson High School for Science4& Technology, Fairfax County


Best Public Schools in the South


Best U.S. High Schools: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology



Best States for Higher Education

#10 Top Public Universities in America Niche, 2022 #10 (tied) Top Public Schools U.S. News & World Report, 2022

#3 Top Public Universities in America Niche, 2022 #4 Top Public Schools U.S. News & World Report, 2022 #5 Best Graduate Management Programs #8 Best Law Schools U.S. News & World Report: Best Graduate Schools, 2022

#4 Best Historically Black Colleges and Universities U.S. News & World Report, 2022

#4 Best Fine Arts Programs #5 (tied) Best Health Care Management Program U.S. News & World Report: Best Graduate Schools, 2022 #7 (tied) Best Civil Engineering Program #7 Best Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering Program #7 (tied) Best Industrial/Manufacturing/ Systems Engineering Program #3 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in America

U.S. News & World Report: Best Graduate Schools, 2022

#4 Best Small Colleges in America Niche, 2022 5

Rocket Lab rendering, Accomack County

Selected Virginia Wins Rocket Lab, a global leader in launch services and space systems, has selected Wallops Island in Accomack County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore as the location for its launch site and manufacturing and operations facilities for its Neutron rocket. The expansion is expected to create up to 250 new jobs, largely engineers, technicians, and support staff. Rocket Lab will launch the Neutron from a new launch pad owned by Virginia Space and located within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The 250,000-square-foot complex will be constructed on a 28-acre site close to Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 2, home to its Electron rocket. Founded in New Zealand in 2006 and now based in California, Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company with an established track record of mission success. The company delivers reliable launch services, spacecraft components, satellites, and other spacecraft as well as on-orbit management solutions. Support for the company’s job creation will be provided by the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a workforce initiative created by VEDP in collaboration with higher education partners that accelerates new facility startups through the direct delivery of recruitment and training services that are fully customized to a company’s unique products, processes, equipment, standards, and culture. All program services are provided at no cost to qualified new and expanding companies. 6

Neutron is a new generation of rocket that will advance the way space is accessed, and Virginia makes perfect sense as Neutron’s home base. Its position on the Eastern Seaboard is the ideal location to support both Neutron’s frequent launch cadence and the rocket’s return-to-Earth capability. Virginia is home to an active and experienced aerospace workforce we can pull from to support Neutron’s development and launch. PETER BECK Founder, President, and CEO, Rocket Lab


Selected Virginia Wins Greater Richmond

I81-I77 Crossroads

Roanoke Region

Jobs: 25 New Jobs Locality: City of Richmond

Jobs: 75 New Jobs CapEx: $31.1M Locality: Smyth County

Jobs: 20 New Jobs Locality: City of Roanoke

A. Duie Pyle

Scholle IPN

Hamilton Insurance Group, Ltd. Jobs: 70 New Jobs CapEx: $415K Locality: Henrico County

Northern Shenandoah Valley

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. Jobs: 500 New Jobs CapEx: $97M Locality: Henrico County, City of Richmond

Jobs: 37 New Jobs CapEx: $27M Locality: Frederick County

Northern Virginia A. Duie Pyle

Hampton Roads

Jobs: 30 New Jobs Locality: City of Manassas

Birdsong Peanuts

CapEx: $25.1M Locality: City of Suffolk

Southern Virginia Axxor

Jobs: 21 New Jobs CapEx: $3.5M Locality: Pittsylvania County

Southwest Virginia Signco

Jobs: 19 New Jobs CapEx: $650K Locality: Tazewell County

Bode Technology

Certified Origins

Jobs: 30 New Jobs CapEx: $25M Locality: City of Newport News

Jobs: 70 New Jobs CapEx: $2M Locality: Fairfax County

Easy Dynamics Corporation Jobs: 61 New Jobs CapEx: $100K Locality: Fairfax County

Embody, Inc.

Jobs: 92 New Jobs CapEx: $5M Locality: City of Norfolk

Mühlbauer, Inc.

Kingspan Insulation LLC

A. Duie Pyle

Virongy Biosciences Inc.

Jobs: 34 New Jobs CapEx: $9M Locality: City of Newport News

Jobs: 70 New Jobs CapEx: $471K Locality: Prince William County

Perdue AgriBusiness

CapEx: $59.1M Locality: City of Chesapeake

Roanoke Region New River Valley

Southwest Virginia I81-I77 Crossroads


Northern Shenandoah Valley

Washington, D.C.

Northern Virginia Shenandoah Valley Central Virginia

Greater Fredericksburg

Northern Neck

Middle Peninsula Greater Richmond Lynchburg Region

Eastern Shore South Central Virginia

Southern Virginia

Virginia’s Gateway Region Hampton Roads






A Conversation With Earl Buford Earl Buford is president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting adult learners as they navigate between education and employment. Prior to joining CAEL, he was the chief executive officer of Partner4Work, the leader of the public workforce system serving Pittsburgh and Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. VEDP President and CEO Jason El Koubi spoke with Buford about CAEL’s mission and work, best practices for getting workers the training they need for the jobs they want, and the family history that motivates him. Jason El Koubi: Can you give a quick rundown of CAEL, its mission and its activities, and the things that drew you to the organization? Earl Buford: We’re a national nonprofit and we’re a membership organization as well. Our legacy is rooted in equity, and includes our pioneering work around what’s known as Credit for Prior Learning, or CPL. We’ve championed CPL for more than 40 years as a way to drive college completion among adult learners. We also advocate for recognizing and valuing diverse education experiences in a system that traditionally undervalues that. That’s really at the heart of our work. It’s about education and employment coming together. El Koubi: You’ve been running CAEL for just over a year now. What are things that have surprised you along the way?

Buford: Most recently I ran the workforce board in southwest Pennsylvania. Prior to that, I ran the workforce system in my hometown, Milwaukee. Before that, I spent 15 years running a collaboration of workforce arms called the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership. I talk about those paths because every organization that I’ve had the chance to lead, including CAEL, is built around a philosophy for my own personal life. I’m the product of a high school pregnancy. My parents met in high school and, unfortunately, were pregnant with me way too early for anyone. You know how those statistics normally play out — they’re normally not positive. Well, in this situation, my parents, they married. My mother finished high school, went to college, and became a teacher. My dad bounced around between low-paying manufacturing jobs until he


stumbled into a training program that was directly connected to a major employer. When he graduated from the program, a job at Delco Electronics was waiting for him. He spent the next 30 years and retired from there, and that changed our lives forever. I call that winning a workforce lottery. Every organization I work with, every project I stumble into, and every partner I partner with is built around this: How do we help individuals get the opportunity to win a workforce lottery? CAEL was the one organization that had all the qualities, assets, and resources I wanted. In order to really link learning and work in this country — especially for meaningful, well-paying, self-sustaining pathways — you have to get higher education involved, and you have to get industry involved. I believe CAEL gives the best opportunity to do that, and it’s national, so it allows us to think about how to scale. El Koubi: What advice do you have for economic development practitioners related to workforce development and talent attraction for their areas? Buford: In years past, economic development did what they did on one end, workforce tried to on their end, and education did their own thing on the other end. We’re past this style of approach. But with that said, I always have felt that economic development is the start for any meaningful strategy from workforce. We cannot do workforce without economic development. It’s about time that people realize that. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to speak at the International Economic

Development Council conference, and the same question came up. I mentioned that I once coined the phrase for work I did in the past — industry-led, worker-centered, but community-focused. It’s time for these different systems to sit at the table and develop those local and regional talent tracks and plan this together. And it’s not just, “Workforce is going to work with the hardest to serve, college is going to work with the higher-educated, and economic development’s not getting what they need and employers aren’t getting what they need.” Those days are over. That equation is bad. They have to throw that out and start over. El Koubi: With work becoming more sophisticated, more technologically advanced, what can be done to better prepare a diverse set of workers for these more advanced jobs and drive successful employment outcomes? Buford: I think it goes back to partnerships. Education is no longer a one-and-done affair where you go to school and get your associate’s or your bachelor’s. With the shelf life of skills decreasing due to technology, I think educators and employers need to remain in constant partnership to develop and ensure that education training programs are wellaligned to the latest workforce needs. Industry partnership models are really important here, where you have a cohort of employers by sectors, unions, labor, and management working together, and educators in a formalized partnership developing the plans. There should be much more upskilling and reskilling of incumbent workers, individuals who have already worked for said industry, or said leader for said company, who understand

the culture of said employer. I think there should be a stronger and larger upskilling and reskilling strategy within the industry partnership model. There are a lot of credentials and certificates that are developing, or that should be developed, for folks who are nontraditional in the workforce, but who aren’t ready to leap into some of the more technical jobs. It’s a sophisticated approach — educators and employers working together in an industry partnership model, upskilling and reskilling, and then a backfilling methodology built around credentials and certificates. El Koubi: This issue of our publication is about partnerships between industry and education. You’ve talked about many of them already. Can you talk about the why? Why are partnerships so important in supporting and serving adult learners and the industries that employ them? Buford: The easy answer is that we’ve all tried to do it in our own siloed way, and that hasn’t worked, or it’s worked momentarily but hasn’t worked with any kind of scale or sustainability — which is why we’re having this conversation, I believe. By not working in a cohesive partnership model, you waste some resources as well. I’m a proponent of what I call a blended funding model to these approaches, where there’s public investment, but you also have private and philanthropic support. El Koubi: What are the ingredients you typically see in the most successful partnerships? Are there any examples of workforce partnerships you would point out as being particularly impactful?

Buford: This is a personal example of a project I worked on that led to something real. It’s around 2008, that downturn. Manufacturing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I worked at the time. We were having the same conversation we’re having now, developing talents, wanting to work together to basically stop poaching from one another, paying a dollar more for someone to leave manufacturer A to go to manufacturer B. We were able to pull together and develop a manufacturing industry partnership of about 30 major employers. We’re talking HarleyDavidson, Ocean Spray, etc. We brought them together, along with the three industrial unions — the steelworkers, the machinists, and the United Auto Workers. What came out of those conversations was basically agreement that the manufacturers in that market stopped training 20 years ago. They stopped upskilling and reskilling at any significant level. That was a breakthrough moment when they all admitted it — that they were willing to pay $1 an hour or $2 an hour more to recruit someone from another company. The genius in that conversation is: They also said that they didn’t like using the old apprenticeship manufacturing model because it took too long, and it wasn’t flexible enough for any of them to bring in new talent on the backfill side. What came out of that was the development of a new apprenticeship model in manufacturing called the industrial manufacturing technician, or IMT. The reason IMT is so important is that it’s a competency-based apprenticeship

Every organization I work with, every project I stumble into, and every partner I partner with is built around this: How do we help individuals get the opportunity to win a workforce lottery? EARL BUFORD President, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning

model. You’re able to bring on someone in a traditional way as a common worker, but instead of it being four years based on their competencies, it was two years in scope, and because of their background, they could test out of some portions of it. It shortened apprenticeship time and gave the employer more flexibility in what they wanted to train workers for. It’s still relevant, and we’re still having conversations about IMT and related instruction and how higher education partners with that. We talk about it almost daily with a variety of employers, because it really changed the paradigm for employers deciding to use it moving forward. Now, it’s not universally used, but the point is that it’s there for manufacturing partners looking for a solution. El Koubi: Virginia is known for its large veteran population. What advice do you have for policymakers and workforce professionals to help ensure that military veterans are positioned to thrive in the workforce after their service? Buford: I was involved in a national project with the refrigeration workers and the steamfitters on the Veterans in Piping


Program. There was a point system, like Credit for Prior Learning. A veteran can come into those trades and take a test, but their skills are also assessed. Sometimes you see a tendency with nontraditional learners to focus too much on the challenges instead of the depths of framing. First, what’s the right approach to make sure they understand what’s available? There are a ton of veterans’ programs out here, and they’re all meaningful, but they aren’t really connected to the armed services. You can’t have an onboarding process if you don’t have a relationship. Higher education, employers — these organizations that are veteran-focused — need to be connected directly to the armed services. Second is making sure that there’s a true skills assessment. CAEL directly has worked really hard on that. We’ve helped create the Veterans Higher Education Affinity Group, or VHEAG. Over the last decade, we’ve been able to leverage the collective voice of VHEAG members and advocacy efforts, encouraging cross-learning and development of best practices, addressing issues around military benefits, military learning, things like that. That part of the learning assessment was the key.

It’s the synergy around systems connecting. It’s not just, “We put a program together and we can’t understand why we aren’t tracking enough veterans,” or veterans thinking, “I’m not getting enough counseling or career mapping, so no one really cares about me.” That’s two ships passing in the night. Let’s make those systems connect. That’s where the good work happens. El Koubi: What do you think American institutions and practitioners can learn from programs in other countries? Buford: Well, for one, the United States acknowledging that the professional trades and our tradition of blue-collar work are the backbone of this country. Number two is valuing how higher education plays a role in that, especially the tech college and community college systems. El Koubi: For the students pursuing a degree or other credentials, and who might not get all the way there, what do you think educational institutions can do to create value for those folks in the system pursuing something, but who maybe don’t finish?

also have a track record of work. That should mean something. Over the past year, at CAEL, I’ve had more of our member college presidents approach me through our surveys, but also individually in conversation, and say, “Help us think about our students’ economic goals.” What they’re really saying is: “Help me find jobs for our students,” whether it’s work-based learning opportunities where there’s internship and co-op strategies, or reciprocity agreements between two-year and four-year institutions. They are all thinking so differently now because they have to. I sound like a broken record, but it’s really these partnership ideas connecting to higher education to help support them. It’s innovative presidents saying, “Okay, what can I do for my students who are investing in my institution? What’s the endgame for them? What’s the payoff for them? What’s the workforce lottery win for them?” El Koubi: Any important observations you’re making, or things you’re involved with, that we haven’t touched on already?

Buford: I mentioned this one-and-done model. You enter an institution, you graduate, you move on. I think that’s a thing of the past. If you think about typical postsecondary frameworks, it doesn’t matter how much progress students make before leaving school. For instance, if you left without a degree, you were considered a dropout — not a near-completer, not almost there, but a dropout.

Buford: I think it’s two things. One, the idea of Credit for Prior Learning is such an important tool. The other is that just because something is going well in another area doesn’t mean it’s suited for you. But the idea is to come together and make these things work, because you’re all going to benefit from it in the end, your workers, your learners, your students. Your community’s going to benefit from it because you’re taking the time to align yourselves together. In essence, that’s what CAEL does. We are an honest broker.

That person drops out, goes to work in a field, and acquires other skills. So now, when they come back, they have their past academic track record, but they

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Inside the Partnerships That Bolster Virginia’s Businesses Educational institutions across Virginia are finding innovative ways to work with businesses to provide a pipeline of potential employees while also creating better employment outcomes for the students they serve. From leadership training modules through community colleges to campaigns to expose students to potential careers at younger ages to novel programs designed to improve diversity, companies are finding Virginia’s educational institutions and community partners to be enthusiastic participants in creating a sustainable workforce. Read on to learn more about how these innovative partnerships benefit businesses, communities, and employees alike.



Northern Virginia Community College Leverages Industry Partnerships to Fill Tech Workforce Needs


orthern Virginia Community College (NOVA) stands poised to help train a growing regional tech workforce, offering a range of technical associate degrees and certifications for in-demand technology jobs. The school has a variety of long-standing partnerships with the tech industry, including some that have helped build a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outreach facility, and a relationship with Amazon aimed at building key technology skills.

CAREER-CHANGING AMAZON PARTNERSHIPS Amazon, currently building and staffing its HQ2 complex in Arlington County, is the second-largest employer in the United States, according to 24/7 Wall St. The company believes that status comes with the responsibility to provide its employees opportunities for growth. To that end, Amazon has “a wide range of programs that are focused on creating pipelines of talent internally and in the community, with an eye to helping communities grow and thrive,” said Kim Majerus, vice president of education, state, and local government at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Northern Virginia Community College’s Fabrication Laboratory, with classrooms and a maker space, was built at the college’s Manassas campus with support from partners including Micron Technology, Inc., BAE Systems, and the U.S. Army.

The company partners with educational institutions to incorporate cloud computing training into STEM curriculum at the secondary and post-secondary levels, with NOVA and George Mason University (GMU) among the first educational partners when the collaboration was announced in 2019. NOVA’s cloud computing specialization, part of its information systems technology associate’s degree, is one of the first cloud computing degrees in the country offered by a community college.



That’s what industry demands here. We have critical infrastructure that needs that engineering and technology base. JOSH LABRIE Director, NOVA SySTEMic

Expanding on the initial associate’s degree, NOVA and GMU worked with AWS to build a bachelor’s degree that equips students with technical skills and hands-on experiences to help prepare them for tech careers. NOVA also partners with Amazon on an apprenticeship program that trains veterans for cloud computing positions with the company, including a 16-week educational program and on-the-job training at AWS’ headquarters in Fairfax County. Apprentices come away from the program with several technical industry certifications, including CompTIA Network+, Linux+, and AWS Solutions Architect. In addition to Amazon, NOVA has partnered with AT&T to create talent pipelines. To further bolster the regional talent pipeline, NOVA has hosted two skills-based training workshops organized by AWS and Sumitomo Electric Lightwave. Through a Sumitomo-backed course, students earn an industry-recognized certificate in fusion splicing, where fibers are fused together using an electric arc. “Innovative partnerships help us match our programming to the needs of the region as we build a future-ready workforce,” said Dr. Chad Knights, vice president of information and engineering technologies and college computing at NOVA. “To


ensure that our students and existing workforce stay competitive in this fast-growing market, it is essential to provide state-of-the-art technology training opportunities.”

A HUB FOR STEM ACTIVITY In early 2020, NOVA unveiled the Fabrication Laboratory, or Fab Lab for short, at its Manassas campus. The 10,000-square-foot multifunctional facility has classrooms, technical training capabilities, and a maker space filled with a variety of fabrication tools, including design software, 3D printers, computerized woodworking tools, and laser cutters. Despite early pandemic-related difficulties, the Fab Lab has become a hub for NOVA SySTEMic, the outreach program for STEM and career and technical education (CTE) at NOVA. It’s a significant investment in technology jobs training, education, and awareness, built with support from a GO Virginia grant and partners Micron Technology, BAE Systems, and the U.S. Army’s Night Vision and Sensors Directorate. “That’s what industry demands here,” said Josh Labrie, director of NOVA SySTEMic. “We have critical infrastructure that needs that engineering and technology base. We support teachers, raise awareness for parents, and expose students to robotics, coding, and engineering.”


Innovative partnerships help us match our programming to the needs of the region as we build a future-ready workforce. DR. CHAD KNIGHTS Vice President of Information and Engineering Technologies and College Computing, Northern Virginia Community College

The new spaces and equipment, combined with NOVA personnel, allow SySTEMic to plan a wider range of events, from elementary school robotics activities to technical job skills or teacher training sessions, all without long lead times or significant additional investments from partners. “We couldn’t do it without the Fab Lab as our home base,” said Labrie. NOVA SySTEMic has developed many industry partnerships over the years with organizations like Micron Technologies, Inc., BAE Systems, Amtek Company, Inc., and several data center operators. Each company is a bit different in how much and exactly how they are able to engage with programs. The common thread for these companies is that the Fab Lab is a place to convene industry, higher education, and the community with a shared interest in technology.

THE HIDDEN UPSIDE OF COLLABORATION For students and educators, some of the benefits of cooperating with industry are relatively clear. Monetary donations help expand or improve programs. Professional consultation ensures that curriculums and lesson plans are preparing students for careers and maintaining the value of degrees. But these partnerships can add value in many other small ways that add up to big impact in the long term.

“There are always partners around,” said Labrie — and even if these relationships start small, they may develop over time. NOVA can then also request résumés, assembling a pool from which to recruit adjunct faculty down the road. SySTEMic recently received three National Science Foundation grants that Labrie credited in part to letters of support from both industry and governmental groups. That support comes from years of working together, but the importance of those relationships might not be clear from the outside. One of those grants, the Makers by Design program at the Fab Lab, will train a diverse group of 17 fellows in teaching design thinking. Program enrollment was expanded with additional support from Micron. As part of the training, the fellows will offer free summer camp programming to local Boys & Girls Clubs, and later develop design challenges that can be used across the region. Building a technically skilled workforce requires collaboration between educators and industry, but also connections with government and the community. “If we don’t have everyone participating along the way, we’re not going to fill the jobs,” said Labrie.


HII Leans on Local Partners to Fill Significant Workforce Needs


his spring, students from The Apprentice School in Newport News donned unusual headgear to learn about welding. Rather than slipping on welding masks, they strapped on virtual reality headsets. Safe from sparks and heat, the students fired up virtual power tools and got a firsthand glimpse of what it’s like to fuse metal for a vessel produced by Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), a division of HII, formerly known as Huntington Ingalls Industries. Since 1919, The Apprentice School has trained thousands of students for shipbuilding and repair work at Newport News Shipbuilding, the largest manufacturing employer in Virginia and the sole designer and builder of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Combining new technology like virtual reality with traditional skills training is one of the many ways the school is preparing the shipyard workforce of the future. “We need to think about innovation and what the next shipbuilder needs to look like,” said Dr. Latitia McCane, director of education for The Apprentice School, which offers apprenticeships in 19 trades and eight optional advanced programs, as well as the opportunity to earn a college degree.


Graduates of The Apprentice School in Newport News ring a ship’s bell signifying the successful completion of their apprenticeships.



Even though we are the largest community college in the area, there’s no way that one community college could really do all the training. We divide up the different training, and among the three colleges, the shipyard has everything it needs. TAMARA WILLIAMS Vice President, Workforce Solutions, Tidewater Community College

“We start as early as pre-K in introducing students to the basics of what a STEM field looks like,” said Xavier Beale, vice president of human resources and trades at NNS. “In pre-K, it’s more hands-on skills to really stimulate and inspire. We continue with that because we know we connect with students and future employees early on, but equally as important, the parents.” A strong shipbuilding and repair industry also benefits other area businesses, such as transportation and food service, said Joe Kosteczko, assistant director of digital shipbuilding at Old Dominion University’s (ODU) Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center (VMASC), a multidisciplinary research center that uses computer modeling, simulation, and visualization to develop new ideas and insights for industry, government, and academia (see page 39). The effect of the industry “trickles all the way down to the individual who is working at Starbucks,” Kosteczko said.

PREPARING THE NEXT GENERATION Since The Apprentice School team is part of Newport News Shipbuilding, they continually stay abreast of in-demand shipbuilding skills, which include software development and data analytics, along with more traditional areas such as pipefitting, painting, and welding. “We have our hands on the pulse of what the company needs because we are embedded,” McCane said. “We are always in conversations with production leaders to make sure we’re teaching the right things.”

A PILLAR OF VIRGINIA’S ECONOMY Finding and fostering the next generation of talent is critical to individual shipbuilders’ success — and an essential part of Virginia’s economy. There are more private shipbuilding and repair jobs in Virginia than in any other state, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration. It has just over 30,000 jobs, nearly triple those in second-place Connecticut. That’s a big pipeline to fill, and efforts to get students interested in the industry start well before they can participate in true workforce training through efforts like NNS’s SEEKnns outreach program. The number of overall direct, indirect, and induced employment associated with the private shipbuilding and repair industry comes in at more than 70,000 jobs.


As existing workers hit retirement age, their ranks need to be replenished with those who can do the traditional trades, as well as workers adept at using burgeoning new technologies. To create a steady pipeline of new talent, educational institutions like ODU, The Apprentice School, and area community colleges are collaborating with each other — and also partnering with shipyards, industry groups, local workforce councils, and other organizations. They want to educate potential workers about the wide range of available jobs and provide them with the needed skills for success. Their joint programs range from workshops and one-day events to weekslong intensives and multiyear curriculums. Among the endeavors is a Marine Trades Training Program that prepares workers for jobs in the shipbuilding and repair industry. The Virginia Ship Repair Association hosts the program, tapping into training from area community colleges — Tidewater Community College (TCC), Paul D. Camp Community College, and Thomas Nelson Community College (soon to be renamed Virginia Peninsula Community College). They’re part of the Community College Workforce Cooperative, an initiative launched in 2021 to create a single point of contact for workforce training at the schools.


We have our hands on the pulse of what the company needs because we are embedded. We are always in conversations with production leaders to make sure we’re teaching the right things. DR. LATITIA MCCANE Director of Education, The Apprentice School

“Even though we are the largest community college in this area, there’s no way, with the need for shipbuilding and ship repair, that one community college could really do all the training,” said Tamara Williams, vice president, workforce solutions at TCC. “Tidewater does the welding, coating, and pipe fitting, while Thomas Nelson does another portion of the training and Camp does another. We divide up the different training, and among the three colleges, the shipyard has everything it needs.” TCC is also connecting prospective workers with Lyon Shipyard in Norfolk. The college has a mobile trailer serving as a portable classroom that’s used to teach welding skills off-campus. That unit is currently parked at Lyon, where community members get free training, career readiness skills, and the opportunity to interact with potential mentors on the staff. Williams deems that endeavor a win-win-win for the college, Lyon, and those looking for work in the trades. “The company just announced that they’re expanding, and they need more workers,” she said. “So, the goal is for applicants to be interviewed and get hired.”

STRENGTHENING THE MARITIME INDUSTRY At ODU’s Virginia Digital Shipbuilding Program (VDSP), the team conducts research to support the maritime industry and works with a wide range of organizations to develop a robust workforce for today and tomorrow. VMASC leads the VDSP, an initiative that uses innovative research, curriculum development, and

new technology — among other tools — to enhance worker capabilities and workforce capacity and develop solutions to industry challenges. The VDSP collaborates with a wide range of educational, industry, and government organizations, including K-12 school districts, community colleges, The Apprentice School, NNS, the Virginia Ship Repair Association, and the American Society of Naval Engineers. “All those industry partners are part of the maritime industry, but they all have their own unique needs,” said Jessica Johnson, curriculum coordinator at ODU’s Virginia Digital Shipbuilding Program and director for STEM at VMASC. Some may want assistance researching workforce development or with other needs, others may seek help in creating a new curriculum, and still others may want access to VMASC’s state-of-the-art digital labs and learning centers to test, train, and work on integrating custom systems into the digital shipbuilding process. Through those efforts, “We strengthen the maritime ecosystem here,” VMASC’s Kosteczko said. And while the calls for support may be disparate, many involve a similar theme: showing that shipbuilding and repair can be meaningful, rewarding work. “A lot of individuals don’t ever get the chance to really understand that working in this industry is truly a very satisfying career,” he said.


Virginia Western Community College’s advanced technology education programs train workers to serve companies like Mack Trucks in the Roanoke area’s advanced manufacturing and automotive industries.

Virginia Western Community College’s Bespoke Training Helps Mack Trucks Grow in Roanoke 26


hen Mack Trucks, Inc. was looking for a site to build a new line of medium-duty trucks, Virginia’s Roanoke Region was a top consideration. The company already had a plant in nearby Pulaski County — where its sister company, Volvo Trucks, operates its largest manufacturing facility in the world — so it knew the area well. “If you like where you are, it doesn’t hurt to stay around the same place,” said Antonio Servidoni, vice president of operations for Mack Trucks’ Roanoke Valley Operations (RVO). One big point in Roanoke’s favor was Virginia Western Community College’s (VWCC) advanced technology education programs, which train skilled workers to serve the area’s advanced manufacturing base and growing automotive industry.

Mack Trucks began production at its RVO facility in Roanoke County in 2020. The company has worked closely with VWCC to bring in students for internships and apprenticeships. The VWCC associate’s degree program in applied science has a focus on mechatronic systems engineering technology, a cross-discipline that combines mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering to meet high-performance manufacturing industry standards. The college also offers mechatronics fundamentals courses that prepare individuals for immediate employment and future training opportunities. Given this backdrop, “VWCC has a good understanding of our needs, and they adapt to fulfill our needs,” Servidoni said. RVO offers three- to sixmonth apprenticeships, and the plant finds full-time positions for almost all apprentices. The facility also has a shadowing program where students can work with community college alumni to see what it’s like to work as a maintenance or product technician. The program got its start when a regional company liaison contacted Milan Hayward, vice president of the School of Career and Corporate Training at VWCC, asking if they offered a course on the 7 Basic Quality Tools for Process Improvement, a quality improvement program focused on problem solving and process improvements. VWCC did not have a curriculum on hand, but Hayward was quick to ask for details about the need and requested meetings with local Mack Trucks leadership, management, and employees. From that, VWCC developed a 14-module program for Mack that’s now welcoming its second cohort. Training is conducted at the plant to minimize employee travel and maximize participation. The plant is on its third cohort for VWCC’s leadership and supervisory essentials training. About 20% of the plant’s personnel will go through this training. With employee advancement on the rise during what’s been dubbed “the Great Resignation,” VWCC’s supervision fundamentals program has become more popular, as many people have been promoted to supervisory roles without prior management experience.

They are exceptional people at Virginia Western. They have always been very responsive and accommodating to find a solution. It’s a great partnership. ANTONIO SERVIDONI Vice President of Operations, Mack Trucks – Roanoke Valley Operations

Hayward says many companies don’t know that VWCC has provided corporate training for nearly 30 years. “Most are familiar with our college courses and skills-based training,” he said. “But we are also an excellent resource for corporate training solutions, from supervision and diversity topics to the technical skills most in demand on the shop floor.” Companies may call him about one training need, and by the end of that conversation, discover the community college can offer many more solutions. VWCC focuses on “middle skill” solutions ranging from software to industrial skills training, and instructors are typically subject matter experts. “It’s been a pleasure to work with Antonio and the entire Mack team,” Hayward said. “They have a compelling vision for their operation, and employee development is key to their business.” “They are exceptional people at Virginia Western,” Servidoni said. “They have always been very responsive and accommodating to find a solution. It’s a great partnership.”


Netflix, Virginia Universities Work to Diversify Tech


roadly speaking, technology fields have a diversity problem. A recent Harvard Business Review article cited slow diversity improvement in the industry over the past several years. Among the ongoing issues: In many jobs reports, relative to the general population, very few new tech hires come from underrepresented minority groups, including Black, Latino, and female workers. At the streaming media company Netflix, Inc., a diverse workforce isn’t just about fairness, but making a great product. “Our goal at Netflix is to entertain the world and bring our members joy,” Netflix Program Manager of Emerging Talent Victor Scotti said. “We know that in order to fulfill this mission, we need our team to match the diversity of the world. We are committed to creating opportunities for the next generation of leaders and innovators.” Scotti manages the Netflix Pathways Bootcamp, a partnership that includes the online learning company 2U — which develops education platforms and courses — and, currently, a group of seven American universities that are either Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) or Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), where the undergraduate student bodies are at least 25% Hispanic. Two Virginia universities are participating in the program. Norfolk State University, an HBCU in Norfolk in the Hampton Roads region, was Netflix’s first partner for the bootcamp, and Marymount University, an HSI in Arlington County in Northern Virginia, signed on in the next wave of schools. The 16-week bootcamp offers tuition-free coursework that gathers students in an online setting where they learn technical skills, experience a professional environment, and build a portfolio while earning credits through their universities. Students also benefit from mentorship from Black


or Latino Netflix employees, and start developing a professional network in their chosen field. Admission requirements may vary from school to school, but the boot camps are generally openly available to students within certain fields of study, or even recent alumni. The bootcamp offers three courses: the programming language Java, data science, and user interface and user experience design (UI/UX). Each course has an entry-level and advanced version. Participating schools are mixed together in virtual classrooms. “The fact that the classes were multi-university was good for the students. They could then see how they would be competitive in the workplace based on how they were doing in the program,” said Diane Murphy, director of the School of Technology and Innovation in Marymount’s College of Business, Innovation, Leadership, and Technology. Murphy also served as the faculty of record for the UI/UX course, keeping an eye on how the course worked within the Marymount curriculum and advising students in the bootcamp. The Pathways program is still young, with room to grow. It started in January 2021 at Norfolk State, open to students and graduates from the university’s previous two classes, and has expanded to Marymount and five other schools: HBCUs Edward Waters University, Morgan State University, and Talladega College, and HSIs St. Edward’s University and the University of California, Irvine. Murphy called the first bootcamp semester at Marymount in fall 2021 “good validation that we’re teaching the right things and preparing students for the workforce,” referring to technical and interpersonal skills as well as the ability to quickly grasp unfamiliar workplace-specific technologies. Much like an internship, the bootcamp provides professional experience that will help students wherever they work in the future, whether that’s at Netflix or another company with technical requirements. “Programs like our Netflix Pathways Bootcamp are important in creating access and opportunities for historically excluded groups,” Scotti said. “Our partnerships with Norfolk State University and Marymount University help us — together — bridge the gap between college and career.”

Norfolk State University was the first university in the country to partner with Netflix and online learning company 2U on the Netflix Pathways Bootcamp, intended to increase diversity in the technology industry. The program has since expanded to six other colleges and universities, including Marymount University in Arlington County.

Programs like our Netflix Pathways Bootcamp are important in creating access and opportunities for historically excluded groups. Our partnerships with Norfolk State University and Marymount University help us — together — bridge the gap between college and career. VICTOR SCOTTI Program Manager of Emerging Talent, Netflix



The GO TEC program introduces Southern Virginia students to advanced manufacturing careers as early as middle school. Layton Wilson (left), a current student at Pittsylvania Career & Technical Center — part of the GO TEC program — visited Gretna Middle School in May to demonstrate the Haas desktop CNC mill.

GO TEC Helps Develop Advanced Manufacturing Talent Pipeline at K-12 Level


he Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers program (GO TEC) is on a mission to develop a broad talent pipeline for advanced manufacturing companies in Virginia — a serious mission that begins with play. In Career Connections labs in middle schools across Virginia’s southern border, from Washington County in the west to Greensville County in the east, students now have the opportunity to test virtual reality welding equipment, code a Raspberry Pi computer, and streamline ice cream assembly workflows, all while building excitement around the skills needed to succeed in future advanced manufacturing careers. The program has thus far brought its innovative approach to 18 middle schools across a broad swath of the southern half of Virginia, and is looking to expand beyond the 7,000 students it currently serves. “You can never start early enough in educating young people about career opportunities, many of which are in their own backyard and that they don’t even know are there,” said Dr. Julie Brown, director of advanced learning at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, which manages the program. “By preparing our young people for well-paying, in-demand careers in the region, GO TEC will give them a reason to stay and sends a strong message to industry that Southern Virginia is serious about delivering a skilled workforce,” said Dr. Betty Adams, chair of the GO TEC Advisory Board and executive director of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in Halifax County, one of several area post-secondary educational institutions partnering on training. Career Connections labs expose students to potential careers they can pursue with technical courses and college dual-enrollment programs in high school and beyond. Each lab promotes engagement in topics including precision machining, welding, information technology and cybersecurity, robotics, automation,

mechatronics, and advanced materials, with some flexibility to meet a region’s specific needs. Learning modules each feature a technology centerpiece that affords students unique hands-on opportunities. This includes heavy-duty training technology such as VEX robotic kits, DOBOT Magician robotic arms, and a Haas desktop Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) mill that fully replicates the controls on advanced CNC equipment at a significantly smaller scale. The GO TEC labs take “a traditional, one-dimensional description of a skill and bring it to life as a dynamic, three-dimensional experience,” said Jason Wells, president of custom cutting tool manufacturer Kyocera SGS Tech Hub in Danville and a member of the GO TEC Advisory Board. As Wells put it, engaging with students at an early age in a way that integrates their passions into an industrial setting allows parents and students to experience industrial career tracks in a way that “inspires while removing antiquated stereotypes of careers in manufacturing.” GO TEC partner schools are working to break down stereotypes that have impacted the manufacturing sector’s ability to recruit. HR advisor UKG found in its 2021 Future Manufacturing Workforce Study that three in four manufacturers report difficulties in attracting and retaining Gen Z workers, making this sort of early connection of paramount importance. Brown notes that GO TEC has already demonstrated its success in creating a bigger funnel for talent development through robust private and public sector partnerships. Now the program — which, in addition to Kyocera, counts area companies Eastman Chemical Company, Intertape Polymer Group, Microsoft, Nilit America, and Scholle IPN as corporate partners — needs support from industry as it scales into other regions. “For those of us who are hiring managers in the region and state, the lessons learned in this state-of-the-art lab provide a foundation that cultivates world-class future employees,” Wells said.


ADP, Inc., and Old Dominion University partnered to create the ADP HCM Academy @ ODU, a human resources training program focused on actual challenges and solutions in the industry.


ODU’s ADP Collaboration Trains the Next Generation of HR Pros


hen Destiny Williams was a senior at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, she saw an article on the school’s website about new human capital management (HCM) courses. The business and psychology major jumped in with 13 other students, taking classes on human resources topics including compensation, performance management, and benefit and salary packages. “I thought it was extremely helpful,” she said. Those initial offerings were part of a new human resources management concentration called the ADP HCM Academy @ ODU, a collaboration between ODU’s Strome College of Business and human resources management software and services giant ADP, Inc. Now in its third year, the program gives students an opportunity to develop the tools and skills needed to succeed in human resources careers — either at ADP, an industry-leading provider of human resources solutions that became one of Norfolk’s largest privatesector employers when it established its 1,800-job regional customer service center in 2016 — or other companies. It offers students the chance to learn from mentors, an internship, and an immersive, hands-on learning environment. The program “enables sharing and learning between higher education and industry specialists to help foster highly experienced and confident graduates who can help shape the future of the HR industry,” said ADP Division Vice President/General Manager Michael Donohue. ODU professors were taking a closer look at the university’s offerings, reverse-engineering the steps taken by successful human resources managers, when the opportunity with ADP arose. “We really needed to provide a more holistic approach,” said Ryan Klinger, an associate professor of management at ODU.

Working with university professors, ADP guided the program’s focus toward the industry’s current challenges and solutions. ADP provided software for students to learn so they could experiment with real-world cases using the technology. Interactive databases preloaded with demo data help students complete hands-on exercises. Course offerings have expanded since Williams was a part of the program — students now learn additional skills, like how to identify pay inequities and how to function as the director of human resources at a 400-person company. Students have also experienced changes to the software itself. When ADP introduced new features, students had to adapt just like they would on the job. ADP hosts a speaker series and gives students the option of pursuing an ADP professional certification acknowledged by the industry, something ODU recognized as a gap in the curriculum before the partnership began. “Some of the things that we couldn’t provide our students — access to software and that real-world work experience — were the things [ADP] had at their disposal,” Klinger said. “That’s why we decided to blend our efforts and create this program.” Other schools have seen the benefits of the collaboration. Since the ODU program opened to students, the University of Central Florida and Arizona State University have both initiated programs with ADP. ODU also hopes to grow the program at the university, expanding beyond human resources to students studying careers such as sales and data analytics. Williams graduated in 2021 and is now a payroll specialist at a private equity firm in Richmond, and she came out of the program knowing how to transfer the skills she learned to her current job. She uses them, she says, every day.


GCubed, Inc., worked with Germanna Community College to create a program to increase the cybersecurity talent pool in the region and the number of qualified cybersecurity teachers.


Building a Stable Cybersecurity Pipeline in Greater Fredericksburg


ernon Green had a hiring problem. Eight years ago, the U.S. Army veteran founded GCubed, Inc., which provides IT and cybersecurity services. The company, based in Stafford County near Fredericksburg, soon ran into an obstacle: It had plenty of work, but not enough employees to handle the work. Partnering with his local community college, however, Green is creating a solution. Germanna Community College has four campuses in the Fredericksburg area, including one in Stafford County. Vice President of Academic Affairs and Workforce Development Shashuna Gray embraces the opportunity to work with area businesses to target local career paths for her students. “It’s important for us to develop the talent in our communities,” Gray said. “Having business partner relationships, like the one that Germanna has with GCubed, is essential.” Starting two years ago with a grant from GO Virginia, a public-private initiative to foster business growth and job creation, Germanna and GCubed created a summer boot camp credentialing program for high school teachers. The idea was to train the teachers to teach cybersecurity classes. They’ve trained about 20 teachers so far, Gray said — but that number is always at risk of shrinking. “If we’re very honest with ourselves, if a teacher had the credentials and certifications that were required, they would have a hard time turning down the job offers” from cybersecurity companies, Green said — offers that usually come with higher wages. To fight that turnover, every teacher who completes the certification process must commit to teaching the program for at least one more year. Now the college dean and the entrepreneur are launching the second phase of their program: allowing high school students to take Germanna courses for cybersecurity certifications. This spring, the first class of 30 high school students is expected to sit for certification examinations. “Some of them can go directly into the workplace, some of them will go to two-year institutions like

If you can ignite a fire in a student in the fourth or fifth grade… it sets them in a better place to succeed in college. SHASHUNA GRAY Vice President of Academic Affairs and Workforce Development, Germanna Community College

Germanna, and some of them will go to four-year [colleges],” Gray said. “But what we are hoping to do is to create our own internal pipeline in this area, so people are not commuting” to jobs outside the community. GCubed and Germanna are also partnering up this summer, as they have in past years, to offer free coding clubs and camps to area children. By reaching kids early, Gray said, that will hopefully set them up for future success. “If you can ignite a fire in a student in the fourth or fifth grade, and they understand that they need to begin taking Algebra 2 by the time they’re in the seventh grade, and that puts them on track to graduate with an advanced diploma, plus have some dual-enrollment experiences, it sets them in a better place to succeed in college” and in a cybersecurity career, she said. Green hopes that the partnership developed between GCubed and Germanna can be replicated by other businesses and educational institutions across the state. He said he’d like to see others “take this concept and reproduce it so that the kids, the teachers, and the community benefit from it.” The beauty of such cooperation, Gray said, is that it pushes both parties to do and achieve more. “When you have that partnership, you’re both willing to give a little more and invest a little more,” she said, “and try a lot harder to make sure that the community as a whole is successful, not just the individual.”



National Work Study Program Helps Fill Manufacturing Skills Gap 36


hen Thomas Midgette visits a high school, he has one goal in mind: to persuade today’s teenagers that they should seek a career in manufacturing. Midgette — who runs the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) work study program provided by Richard Bland College of William & Mary (RBC) in Prince George County outside Petersburg and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) — shows them pictures of clean, well-lit facilities. He talks about safety protocols, extols the high-tech machinery, and gives clear examples of strong pay opportunities. “There will be some days where you get dirty,” he tells them, “but the point is that you’re not drenched in dirt and sweat all day.”

The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education program from Richard Bland College and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing trains students on skills like applied electronics.

Students are paid an average of $16 an hour for about 25 hours per week of work, with some employers also offering perks like health insurance, 401(k) plans, and stock options. Students exit the program armed with a transferrable associate’s degree and the training to start working, making upwards of $50,000 per year. One participating business is German company Electronic Precision Technology Connectors, Inc. (ept usa), which employs about 65 technicians, tool and die makers, engineers, and others at its automotive parts manufacturing facility in Chesterfield County. It’s the fruition of a dream that Joerg Paule, ept usa’s director of operations, had begun to fear would never be realized. “Any manufacturing company has the same problem we have,” he said. “Our maintenance workforce is developing gray hairs, meaning they are getting older. And there are not enough young ones filling the place of the soon-to-retire employees.” Within the next two years, he said, about a dozen of his highly skilled employees will retire. The company had tried starting its own apprenticeship program, with little success in filling the upcoming openings. Thanks to FAME, there is hope in sight. The program — a national effort with chapters in 13 states — places college students in manufacturing training programs through a collaboration between RBC, a two-year college; CCAM, an applied advanced manufacturing research and development consortium; and local businesses that range from pharmaceutical manufacturers AMPAC Fine Chemicals to rail parts manufacturer Amsted Rail to snack food giant Sabra Dipping Co. The hope is to offer local residents career options while providing employers with the skilled talent they need. “It’s an Advanced Manufacturing Technician program,” said Betsey Odell, CCAM’s director of development. “You’re learning pneumatics, you’re learning hydraulics, you’re learning about electrical circuitry, robot programing, electrical drive controls, vision inspection systems, integrated testing, and much more.”

When FAME students are not on the job site, they are either at CCAM taking courses on industry education or at RBC completing general education requirements. This year, the program’s first class is six students who are enrolled and apprenticing at four job sites. The program is funded by grants from GO Virginia, Prince George County, and the local Cameron Foundation. When it reaches 20 students per class — ideally in two to three years — the program will become self-sustaining, Midgette said. Paule hopes today’s trainees become tomorrow’s employees, with more to follow. He’s got his sales pitch ready: “If you like precision, if you like structural, if you like problem solving, this [career] is for you. And I am also convinced: If you have those interests, and an education in your back pocket, you never have to worry about finding a job.”

The Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center’s Virtual Operating Room uses virtual reality to create a simulated environment for training surgical team members in judgment and technical ability.


VMASC Works With Industry Partners to Solve the Problems of the Future


he Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center (VMASC) specializes in the future — integration of digital technologies into practical uses to support partners in industry and government. Created as a military training resource at the request of the Department of Defense and hosted at Old Dominion University’s Suffolk campus, the 60,000-square-foot multidisciplinary research center carries out modeling and simulation research and development for a variety of markets, including homeland security, transportation, medical training and research, cybersecurity, and data analytics.

A recently closed competition with Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation support was aimed at identifying autonomous solutions to support safety, security, and emergency response at The Port of Virginia.

Through its own research and its VMASC Industry Association (VIA), the center supports collaborative research partnerships, scholarships, and entrepreneurial contests. The center’s overarching goal is to discover new ways to utilize modeling, simulation, and analysis to solve real-world problems. Currently, the center has about 70 research staff and $100 million in funded research projects and initiatives supported by defense industry giants, including Booz Allen Hamilton, GDIT, Lockheed Martin, MITRE, and SAIC.

VMASC’s record of successful collaboration attracts innovation-focused industry partners. “Being an applied research center that is nonprofit also allows us to form great bonds that innovate, rather than compete, with our partners,” said Joe Kosteczko, assistant director of VMASC’s Digital Shipbuilding program (see page 22).

The Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy (VISA), a VMASC research enterprise on Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore, is tasked with growing the Commonwealth’s entrepreneurial ecosystem surrounding space flight and autonomous vehicles. VISA holds periodic competitions to identify promising companies working in those fields and match those companies’ capabilities with local and regional needs. VISA’s first competition identified three companies using autonomous technology to solve industry issues: ◾ SCOUT Space in Alexandria, which is developing in-space inspection technology for autonomous satellites ◾ Universal Solutions International, Inc., in Newport News, which is studying in-flight launching of unmanned aerial vehicles from manned aerial platforms ◾ Sentinel Robotic Solutions in Accomack County, which is developing an over-the-horizon communications mesh network to enhance data transfer from shore stations to sea-based platforms

“It’s grown some legs already,” said John Costulis, VISA’s deputy director. “We have the Department of Homeland Security interested at the federal level. If you can demonstrate a technology to solve some of those challenges, that company could be set up to provide it to any port in the country.”

VMASC also helps solve workforce issues for employers in the Hampton Roads region and across the Commonwealth. The center provides programs that support training of the current and future workforce for local maritime industry partners, including HII, Fairlead Integrated, and QED Systems. VMASC partnered with Epic Games, developer of the popular Fortnite video game, on the Maritime Career Experience, an immersive virtual reality experience that highlights maritime STEM careers. The center’s annual Modeling, Simulation, and Visualization Student Capstone Conference brings together employers like Newport News Shipbuilding, MI Technical Solutions, Inc., SimIS, Inc., and Simventions to showcase projects and careers in STEM fields. VMASC also coordinates with several local workforce councils to enhance and support various maritime employee training programs. “VMASC has developed some incredible training aids and technologies,” said Scott Kelley, director of production and workforce development for QED Systems in Virginia Beach. “We have collaborated on several projects, and the VMASC team never fails to impress me with their professionalism and ability to see around corners to figure out the most productive way forward.”


Southwest Virginia Job Seekers Get a Leg Up From United Way Program


major IT firm sees an emerging need for young employees with the right skill sets. Schools, in turn, are filled with students who would need such jobs within a few short years. Through a United Way initiative, the various entities are linked. Fledgling workers find a way to get a foot in the proverbial door, while the employer gets a source for filling essential positions. Such is the reality in 19 Southwest Virginia school systems, thanks to the Youth Success Initiatives program administered by the United Way of Southwest Virginia. Since its inception in 2019, the program has worked with local schools and prospective employers to train


and deliver this emerging talent pool to companies like CGI Inc. at its Russell County facility. “We’re a new-model United Way,” said Melinda Leland, director of youth success for United Way of Southwest Virginia. “We are not just funds in, funds out. We implement systems in a cradle-to-career approach. Everything we’re doing is about helping our school systems expose our students to workforce development.” The program enables school employees, known in the program as Ignite Coordinators, to help guide their young charges into potentially fruitful directions that would otherwise go unnoticed, said Erica Bostic, a school counselor and Ignite Coordinator at Honaker High School in Russell County. She added that a CGI internship last year spurred one young man to pursue cybersecurity studies. “We’re trying to reach our kids to help them explore careers. Even when they’re ready to graduate, they may not be decided — and that’s okay,” said Bostic. As a key component of United Way’s mission, the Youth Success Initiatives plan is based on the following approaches:

The United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Ignite program has shown me opportunities that I would not have normally known about. Through this program, I received my internship at CGI and learned what it is like to work in a professional work environment — and to have fun while doing it. MORGHAN SCALES Trainee, CGI Inc. United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Ignite Internships connect high school students like Morghan Scales of Honaker High School with potential careers at area employers.

◾ Ignite Internships, taking place during four weeks or more in the summer, where high school students learn workplace skills and garner hands-on experience while being paid by the company ◾ Careers Expo for Youth, where more than 4,000 Southwest Virginia seventh graders meet with regional employers and explore careers through hands-on activities ◾ Educators in Industry, where local teachers and employers engage in collaborative visits ◾ The Five C’s Workshop, where educators and students consider the importance of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creative thinking, and citizenship ◾ Training and education for Ignite Coordinators, where they learn about program implementation and career exploration software While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on in-person visits and meetings, students have been able to continue to participate through online video sessions. United Way and the other partners are hopeful that face-to-face arrangements can resume this year.

Robin Hunley, director of consulting at CGI’s local office, believes Youth Success Initiatives is providing a critical community service. As the product of a high school internship program herself, Hunley said it helped her decide on a career path in computer science and quicken her professional development when she joined the workforce. “Opportunities have grown considerably since CGI has come to Southwest Virginia,” Hunley said. “But we still have a lot of work [to do]. And United Way’s program opened it up for us to participate, and show the IT world to students in this area and what they can do. It’s definitely a win-win for both CGI and the students.” The company has brought on four high school interns, like the young man from Honaker High School, in the past year. They largely perform administrative and accounting tasks and get an introduction into technology, Hunley said. Such arrangements can carry over into college internships as well. “Their program is wonderful for this area,” Hunley said. “And CGI is happy to be a partner with them, and assist them in any way we can to help the youth in this area.”


Pioneering Research and Partnership at Scale


he Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s (VTTI) labs allow students to tackle much more than just class assignments. The space is also used for projects that help transportation industry members and government agencies advance vehicle design, safety, and other research efforts. Established in 1988, VTTI has grown from 15 to approximately 300 employees. Today, it’s the secondlargest university-level transportation institute in the United States, with research ranging from pavement surface cleaning techniques to various aspects of vehicle electronic systems safety in partnership with government agencies and automotive industry giants like the General Motors Company (GM). GM has developed and tested numerous features at VTTI over the course of a relationship of more than 20 years, ranging from driver convenience features to advanced driver assistance systems and automated driving systems. For example, a series of studies evaluating rearview cameras illustrated, early on, the benefits of a safety feature that is now required on all new vehicles sold in the United States. Other major research areas include projects focused on teen drivers and vulnerable road users. “VTTI has touched nearly every advanced safety feature on our vehicles over the years,” said Jeff Schultz, an engineering group manager in GM’s Global Safety Technology and Strategy organization. “It’s been a great, valuable collaboration.” More recently, GM’s Super Cruise feature, a hands-free driver assistance technology that keeps the vehicle operating at a driver-selected speed and following gap and centered in a lane, was researched and tested at VTTI.


Research conducted in partnership between the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and GM helped illustrate the benefits of rearview cameras, now required on all new vehicles sold in the United States.

Systems are frequently tested at the Virginia Smart Roads test facility, a controlled-access area in Montgomery County, managed by VTTI in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Transportation as part of Virginia Connected Corridors. In addition to Virginia Smart Roads, VTTI’s facilities include the Northern Virginia Connected Vehicle Test Bed — which includes sections of Interstates 66 and 495 and U.S. Routes 29 and 50 — and the VIRginia International Raceway in Halifax County. VTTI conducts applied research, directly supporting the research and development phase of advanced prototype systems, and measuring performance benefits while providing answers to critical research questions for industry and government partners. These partnerships benefit companies through

VTTI’s cutting-edge research, VTTI through greater exposure in the auto industry, and the student researchers who gain valuable experience.

the company and are paired with a Virginia Tech faculty member, who advises them and helps keep the project on track.

For about five years, VTTI has offered the InternHUB program, a project-based, interdisciplinary learning effort to accelerate students’ practical skills development by helping them obtain internships with high-tech employers in the transportation industry. The institute recruits industry members like Continental AG, who pay an annual fee that funds development of a lab environment for the associated project, including the necessary equipment.

“We know the model can work well and that companies want to get a better look at the students before they make hiring decisions,” said Michael Mollenhauer, VTTI’s division director of technology implementation. “They also want the students to get a look at them, because they don’t want to hire students and have them turn around and leave in a month or two because they’re not happy with what they ended up doing.

Students are generally recommended by faculty or selected by an organization that has reviewed their résumés and credentials. Teams of interns report to

“Getting to know each other is really important. To have the ability to work in your own backyard and see the results of that is a very meaningful part of the process.”


Tailor-Made Welding Talent


efore opening its Westmoreland Workforce Training Center (WWTC) in 2018, Rappahannock Community College (RCC) held welding courses in the evening in borrowed space at Northern Neck Technical Center that a local high school used during the day. The training facility, built using a grant from the GO Virginia economic development initiative, has allowed the school to expand its offerings to include customized learning opportunities RCC has developed with employers in the region. Some of those employers are looking for professionals who possess general welding skills. Individuals who hope to fill those jobs can obtain those skills by taking the school’s primary welding course and receiving an American Welding Society (AWS) certification, and companies in the region can reap the benefits of a better-trained talent pool — but the benefits for employers who engage directly with RCC can be much greater.


Carry-On Trailer in Westmoreland County is one of those employers. The manufacturer of steel and aluminum utility trailers needed to supplement its workforce to keep up with increasing demand and growth into the Northeast and Canadian markets. Company executives reached out to local and regional economic development partners to devise a creative workforce solution, ultimately resulting in the creation of the WWTC. “Carry-On had an urgent need for welders. It was clear the area needed a larger capacity for training — and a larger trained workforce,” said Gary Holbrook, Carry-On Trailer’s director of dealer sales. “Previously, the college was only able to offer nighttime welding classes due to lack of space. This building has expanded RCC’s capacity for training and allowed for more flexibility for business owners who want to send their employees to a class.” Other companies have particular training in mind they’d like job candidates to receive before coming

Rappahannock Community College’s Westmoreland Workforce Training Center was established to fill local employer needs after a request from Westmoreland County trailer manufacturer Carry-On Trailer.

on board — and are reaping the benefits of the specificity RCC and the WWTC can provide, which includes classes in industrial machining and milling in addition to the welding training. Besides Carry-On Trailer, graduates have gone on to work for employers including East Coast Boat Lifts, Inc. and Miller Marine Inc. in Middlesex County on the Middle Peninsula, along with shipyards in the Hampton Roads region. “When they need something specific, we can pretty much switch things around and make sure we gear it toward them,” said RCC Training Coordinator Michelle March. “For example, for Carry-On Trailer, [employees] are welding trailers, so the students in that particular class actually worked on a physical trailer, instead of test plates like our regular welders would.” RCC made other changes to its trainings to accommodate Carry-On’s needs. The college abbreviated its typical class frequency — normally six

weeks of twice-weekly, three-hour-long sessions — at the company’s request, compressing the program to operate on a business schedule. To date, CarryOn has hired approximately 20 RCC graduates, according to Holbrook. Tapping in to RCC’s pipeline of talent has become the thing to do. “Now — and this wasn’t necessarily the case six years ago — all the local shipyards, as soon as they have openings, are reaching out to our instructors, letting us know, and we’re sending people right to them,” March says. “It’s a steady flow. We have the relationship with them that they know if they need a welder, they can come to us.” She added: “Our job is to make sure [companies] have the workforce they need, and that the workforce is trained up to the status they need. We can’t do that without finding out from them what their requirements are going to be, so it’s a constant give and take.”


Blue Ridge Community College Partners With Industry to Train the Future of Cybersecurity


yberattacks that can drain bank accounts and steal personal data are high on the list of things that keep Virginia business owners and government officials up at night. A University of Maryland study found that hackers launch cyberattacks every 39 seconds. The good news? A new generation of local cybersecurity experts born out of an education/business collaboration is fighting back against hackers. An initial GO Virginia grant was awarded in 2018 to Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in Augusta County. Since then, a growing number of students have been getting quality cybersecurity training at no or low cost in a three-month program at BRCC. “A lot of people don’t realize how inexpensively, and sometimes for free, they can get that education,” said BRCC Dean of Academic Affairs Marlena Jarboe, one of the driving forces behind the program. BRCC and local and regional cybersecurity firms are working together to produce qualified candidates to fill roughly 55,000 cybersecurity jobs available in Virginia, according to Dan O’Brien, cybersecurity apprenticeship program manager and instructor at BRCC. Partners who rely on BRCC as a talent feeding system and offer career opportunities to its cybersecurity graduates include IT firms and companies such as E-N Computers, Leidos, and Tiber Creek Consulting. These firms stay in close contact with O’Brien, sharing not only job openings, but also keeping the college abreast of upto-date training requirements and additional certifications that students will need to go beyond basic cyber risk assessments and take on more senior cyber assignments. Landing a coveted job aimed at repelling hackers, O’Brien says, requires a solid background in the ABCs of cybersecurity. It also means earning key certifications that show a mastery of core cybersecurity skills, such as CompTIA Security+, and getting acquainted with software used in cyber vulnerability assessments. BRCC’s training checks all those boxes.


“We teach them the fundamentals — what kind of cyberattacks there are, how to identify attacks, and how to put things in place to prevent attacks,” O’Brien said of students who range from career changers to military vets and underserved populations. The final and most critical piece, of course, is on-thejob training via apprenticeships and, ultimately, full-time jobs at regional IT firms. Two years ago, Fairfax County-based cybersecurity and IT firm Tiber Creek Consulting set up a remote satellite office in the city of Waynesboro — which provided matching funds and donated a building for use as office space — to take advantage of the talent pool graduating from BRCC’s cybersecurity program. The firm originally hired six students in 2019 and now has 12 on the payroll. “It was a natural fit from the very beginning,” said Joshua Foster, cybersecurity operations manager at Tiber Creek Consulting. “We needed them, and they needed us. Each graduate of the BRCC program came to us with an excellent foundation in cybersecurity. Paired with our mentorship, they have continued to grow, delivering quality service offerings in our cybersecurity division.” To boost students’ odds of on-the-job success, O’Brien reaches out to prospective employers to learn what specific skills they are looking for and what software expertise is needed. “We are able to tailor the education to exactly what a company needs,” says O’Brien. Since its launch in 2018, BRCC’s cybersecurity training program has had 135 graduates, with 76 landing jobs locally in cybersecurity roles, O’Brien said. Another 13 students graduated in April. Last year, to help program graduates get the experience needed to land a cyber-related job, BRCC launched an apprenticeship program that places graduates in a one-year paid apprenticeship with business partners. “It gets you in the door,” O’Brien said of the apprenticeship setup.

Laurel Ridge Community College Partnership Helps Trex Meet Leadership Needs


s the COVID-19 pandemic raged on over the last two years, contractors became more popular as people reevaluated the spaces where they lived (and suddenly worked). Builders erected and renovated houses and apartments and added decks and treehouses, leading to a surge in demand for lumber and building materials. Already in the midst of a major capacity expansion, Trex Company, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking, was well positioned to respond to increasing demand and wanted to ensure the same for its team. Trex, based in Frederick County in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, has experienced rapid growth in recent years — including the addition of several new leaders, both from internal promotions and external hires. The company reached out to the Workforce Solutions department at nearby Laurel Ridge Community College to provide company employees with leadership training. “We saw the opportunity to build a customized program focused on Trex’s real-life scenarios to ensure greater success for all leaders and build a consistent experience for employees,” said Jay Rudolph, vice president of human resources at Trex. Less than a month later, Laurel Ridge implemented a front-line leadership training series for 44 Trex manufacturing employees. The Laurel Ridge team first met with Trex leadership and toured the facility to gain a better understanding of day-to-day production processes and operations, then tailored two of the college’s existing classes, Servant Leadership and Buddy to Boss, to the company’s unique operational structure and challenges, developing custom role-play scenarios and content. An instructor from Laurel Ridge taught the employees over two eight-hour days, giving them resources to use in their new leadership roles.

The classes were specifically tailored to Trex built on an existing relationship between the company and the college. “Trex continuously looks for opportunities to invest in our workforce, make sure every employee knows they are valued, and offer relevant professional development opportunities. Partnerships like these are a critical component of those efforts,” Rudolph said. The leadership training provided to Trex employees is part of Laurel Ridge’s Workforce Solutions program, which offers noncredit professional development classes. “We want to make sure that businesses know we not only offer in-house classes and programs, but that we can develop customized solutions tailored to our client’s needs,” said Larry Baker, corporate training sales manager at Laurel Ridge. Laurel Ridge has offered various leadership trainings since 2001, giving employees from a number of different companies, such as Home Depot distribution centers and Berry Global Inc., the opportunity to learn leadership skills as they take on roles with more management responsibility. The classes created for Trex affirmed the need for a formal front-line leadership training program for local manufacturers and resulted in the creation of Leadership Basecamp, a 10-week cohort program. Since its launch in August 2020, nearly a dozen companies have participated in Leadership Basecamp. The college’s corporate training opportunities also include apprenticeship and certification programs, consulting, and assessment services. Tiered certifications allow employees to match the skills they want to learn with the college’s classes. “We’re there to provide training to help enhance skills,” Baker said. “Leadership is one of the more robust areas that we offer. We want to make sure that we’re providing those classes to help [area employers] be successful.”

“Feedback from both day- and night-shift leadership was overwhelmingly positive,” Rudolph said.


Piedmont Virginia Community College Connects Wineries, Breweries with Skilled Talent


xpertise in grapevine grafting and propagation, basic tractor repair, fermentation, and wine racking aren’t exactly skill sets that are widely found among the general population. Yet they are skills upon which the more than 800 wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries in Virginia depend. It’s to build this knowledge base that Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) outside Charlottesville, along the path of the 40-winery Monticello Wine Trail, offers the Commonwealth’s only workforce training certificate programs for training future viticulturists, winemakers, brewers, and tasting room managers. PVCC’s programs are designed to guide tomorrow’s taste leaders through the process of creating exceptional beverages and tourism experiences, from finding and maintaining the right site to the mechanics of management, marketing, and sales. The workforce training certificate programs have the added benefit of connecting winery and brewery owners and operators with valuable resources, networking opportunities, and potential employees. Program students range from novices curious about what it takes to be a part of Virginia’s growing wine and beer industry to current owners and operators looking to broaden their skills. To date, 10 wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail were started or purchased by PVCC workforce training certificate holders. Several students straddle both interests, growing hops and grapes. Many other certificate holders have gone on to internships or jobs with the local wineries, breweries, and distilleries that host these training opportunities. Classes are led by local industry professionals, who also support curriculum development. A typical class might have 10 to 15 students, allowing ample opportunity for hands-on participation and discussion. “Having our classes at working wineries, breweries, and distilleries adds significant value to the student


experience,” said Christy Hawkins, dean of workforce services at PVCC. “When students are learning about pruning the vines, they’re actually out in the vineyards pruning vines. That’s really helpful in terms of connecting with jobs, because our partners see them out there learning these things and will then reach back out and say, ‘Remember that student you had last fall? Are they through the program yet? Are they ready for an internship?’” Stan Joynes, CEO and co-founder of Valley Road Vineyards in Albemarle County, is proof of the lasting value the program provides. When Joynes, his wife, and four other couples decided to launch a vineyard, his first step was to enroll in PVCC classes. “When we opened our tasting room to the public in August 2016, all but two of our servers were people I had met in the PVCC enology and viticulture classes. Some of those people are still with me today, six years later,” Joynes said. “It’s got a lot of value, especially if you want to network with people with similar interests.” The program’s reach is about to expand. In 2018 PVCC received a GO Virginia grant that supported its efforts in curriculum development and establishing a career pathway from post-secondary instruction to employment, and it has evaluated sites for potential teaching wineries and breweries. Now it’s sharing its curriculum with Germanna Community College to help that school better serve the growing wine industry in Madison County. While the pandemic’s gathering restrictions disrupted on-site classes, Hawkins noted that PVCC classes are back to their maximum level and finding demand. “We are so incredibly grateful for our partners that allow us to come in and teach the classes because it makes for such an incredible environment, to actually be able to be in a brewery or winery when they’re learning these things,” she said.

Lynn Merhib is one of many graduates of Piedmont Virginia Community College’s craft beverage certificate programs who now work at, or own, one of Central Virginia’s many wineries.

The strength of the program is that it really allows you to connect with professionals and people who are actually working in your area. The level of knowledge that is built into the program astounded me. It gives you the opportunity to experience every aspect of the business. LYNN MERHIB Manager of Wine Club and Outside Sales, Valley Road Vineyards



Students at Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) and Lynchburg-area high schools can get training on skills like machine tooling at CVCC’s CTE Academy.

Central Virginia Community College’s CTE Academy Brings 30 Trade Programs Under 1 Umbrella 50


any high school students feel compelled to get a four-year college degree, even if that’s not always the best option. Students may not realize that careers in the trades are in demand and pay well. Through G3 scholarships and FastForward grants, Virginia offers tuition assistance for qualified students entering programs in these fields. But the state is also supporting innovative efforts from educational institutions like Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) in Lynchburg.

Fostering interest in high school students, allowing them to start their education, and training them is the best way to create a talent pipeline, said Southern Air President Paul Denham.

CVCC received GO Virginia funding to align 26 existing trades programs under the CTE Academy and develop four additional credential programs. The CTE Academy focuses in part on the region’s targeted industry sectors: manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology. Programs include machine tooling, industrial maintenance, mechatronics, welding, medical lab technology, skilled trades, and others.

About 100 high school juniors and seniors from 10 area high schools attend the CTE Academy as dual-enrollment students. The CTE Academy also works with unenrolled students to share opportunities and illustrate pathways to career success.

Employers are having a difficult time finding qualified workers. In response to this issue, the CTE Academy was established to increase training opportunities in the region and connect students with local businesses. “Collaboration involving all stakeholders in our region is the key to addressing the needs of the local workforce,” said CVCC Associate Vice President of Professional and Career Studies Jason Ferguson. In some of these trade programs, students who complete the skills-based training can make $70,000 the first year, just a few years removed from high school. “After a few years, with some companies and some overtime, they’re making six figures with little to no college debt,” Ferguson said. Local companies are working hand in hand with CVCC to create the needed talent pipeline. Southern Air, a full-service industrial, commercial, and institutional contractor, employs 800 tradespeople across Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, and has run its own apprenticeship program in Lynchburg for 25 years, with some students coming from the CTE Academy. Each of the CTE Academy programs includes a dual-enrollment option, where students can take community college courses while still in high school.

In centralizing technical and career education programs in the community college setting, the teachers can be a resource for all regional high schools. Plus, “Community colleges typically have the space and lab facilities,” Denham said.

CVCC hired liaisons to interface with the business community and K-12 partners. Staff members are making a more deliberate effort to work with companies to provide the type of education that will help students acquire the necessary skills to enter the local workforce, including CVCC-led roundtable committees to hear the voices and ideas of these stakeholders. “They will guide us to better align what the college provides with what the workforce needs,” Ferguson says. The CTE Academy also helps local employers like Boxley Materials Company, an integrated construction materials supplier in Lynchburg. “We’re finding less of a talent pool to pull from,” says Boxley Vice President Charles Craddock. “The young people are still there — they just don’t know what career field they might enjoy.” The CTE Academy helps assess students for skills and interest in high school and encourages them to consider careers in the trades. Industry relationships are key and, in addition to Boxley and Southern Air, the CTE Academy is working with area partners ranging from nuclear equipment manufacturing companies BWX Technologies, Inc., and Framatome to information technology firm DataPrivia, Inc. Companies sometimes set up tables outside the classrooms to talk with students. “The companies enjoy that opportunity. It brings them to the students and helps with equity issues. It brings the company to them,” Ferguson said.



FOR STUDENTS AND EMPLOYERS A Conversation With Anne Kress Dr. Anne Kress is president of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), the largest public educational institution in Virginia and the second-largest community college in the United States. VEDP President and CEO Jason El Koubi spoke with Kress about the importance of community colleges in workforce development, the effectiveness of industry partnerships in delivering talent to employers, and NOVA’s efforts to serve a large, diverse Northern Virginia population. Jason El Koubi: Tell us about your background and how you landed at Northern Virginia Community College. Anne Kress: I really fell into the world of community colleges. My first degree was in finance, but I went out and did not really enjoy working in that field. I went back and got a bachelor’s and a master’s in English. Before moving on for my doctorate, I decided to take a break. I taught at Santa Fe, the local community college in Gainesville, Florida, and just fell in love with the mission and the students. I was a first-generation college student and I saw myself in so many of the students I was teaching.


Then I went back and worked on my doctorate, and the community college called to ask if I would apply for a full-time position as an English faculty member. I jumped at the chance and have been working in community colleges my whole career. I eventually became provost of Santa Fe, and then moved to upstate New York to Monroe Community College, where I was president for about 11 years. Then I was recruited to Virginia. I’ve now been at NOVA since January of 2020. Even though it’s been an unprecedented time since I got here, I could not be more proud of Northern Virginia Community College.



El Koubi: At this point in your career, what is your vision on the role of the community college and the region it serves? Kress: At the heart of the community college mission is really that first word, community. It’s one of the things that has drawn me to this sector for close to three decades. It’s the connection between a community college and the community that is the power of the work we do. We provide high-quality, accessible, and affordable higher education to the region. It prepares students for transfer, prepares them for careers. It also provides lifelong learning — now we call it skilling and upskilling and reskilling as folks move through multiple careers. It’s an open door of economic opportunity that strengthens and supports the local community and all residents. We serve a very broad and diverse region, with more than 80,000 students in credit and noncredit programs. Every single year, we connect our students to highly selective universities. We connect them to in-demand, high-wage careers. It is really an on-ramp to lives that are transformed that’s the power of our mission. El Koubi: NOVA is the largest public educational institution in our state and serves the population with a wide range of educational goals. What does the college need to do to effectively serve such a diverse set of stakeholders? Kress: I don’t want to overlook the foundation of the work that we do: the dedicated and talented faculty and staff at NOVA who are committed to student success. I think that’s especially important at community colleges because we serve so many first-generation students who, in some cases, aren’t just first-generation college, but may be the first in their family to graduate from high school. So, connecting with someone is incredibly important. We leverage that with these incredibly impactful partnerships with business and


community leaders. For example, we know that many of our students suffer from food insecurity. So, we’ve got a fantastic partnership that’s supported by M&T Bank with the Capital Area Food Bank, where they bring in a thousand pounds of food at a time to our pantries to support our students. We need to take an innovative approach to providing more and more diverse onramps to higher education opportunities. At NOVA, we provide high school dual enrollment to about 14,000 students every year at high schools across our region at no cost to those students, which is in effect a scholarship of about $16 million. We also work with businesses around paid internships and apprenticeships, those learn-and-earn opportunities that are so impactful for students in helping them connect to careers. Then we’ve got these fantastic transfer on-ramps, like our nationally recognized partnership with George Mason University on ADVANCE, which provides students with 100% of their credits transferring in more than 80 different degrees. They don’t need to leave Northern Virginia for a high-quality bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree and beyond. El Koubi: You’re doing so much to serve the region’s students and empower them with what they need to pursue their goals. You’ve mentioned the importance of corporate partnerships. I know under your leadership, NOVA has entered into partnerships with a wide range of employers, including some of the largest in the region, like Amazon,, and Micron. How have those partnerships worked for both students and the companies? Kress: It’s a win-win. We’re almost in a talent arms race right now. There’s such high demand for skilled workers. For these companies to be able to partner with NOVA and help inform the curriculum so that when our students


graduate, they’re ready to work — and for our students to engage with these employers from the very beginning — it’s transformational. We used the pandemic to rethink some of our corporate relationships and career services for students. We designed the first-of-its-kind business engagement center. In some fields, we’ve been able to provide students guaranteed interviews, so they know that at the end, there’s an employer waiting and eager to meet them. Many of them will get job offers before they even graduate. This is really, I think, what all community colleges need to look at going forward. We see the talent shortage, but we also know there are so many members of our community who are basically on the outside looking in when it comes to these economic on-ramps. The more we can do to diversify these opportunities, the better off we’re going to be.

There’s such high demand for skilled workers. For these companies to be able to partner with NOVA and help inform the curriculum so that when our students graduate, they’re ready to work — and for our students to engage with these employers from the very beginning — it’s transformational. DR. ANNE KRESS President, Northern Virginia Community College

El Koubi: Are there any partnerships that NOVA is particularly proud of ? Kress: We were delighted recently to be awarded a congressionally directed spending grant around data center operations. Northern Virginia is in many ways a global data center hub. We simply cannot produce enough graduates, so we partnered with the data center consortium that represents big and medium and small players in that industry sector, and we’ll be expanding our data center operations program to a second campus. These partnerships extend beyond, “Hey, we need a lot of workers.” These are companies that help us with the curriculum and in some cases provide us with adjunct faculty. As you can imagine, as much as talent is in high demand, it’s hard to find people to work at a public institution for what we’re able to pay them when they could make so much more in the open market. But the companies understand that and will help us with adjuncts.



Northern Virginia Community College

There are so many members of our community who are basically on the outside looking in when it comes to these economic on-ramps. The more we can do to diversify these opportunities, the better off we’re going to be. DR. ANNE KRESS President, Northern Virginia Community College


Then they invest in scholarships for students. It’s a virtuous cycle that’s really helping regional growth. It’s helping students move forward economically. It’s helping the knowledge economy that is key to the future of the entire Commonwealth. These are the kinds of partnerships I think NOVA does incredibly well, because we’re always looking at the horizon to see what’s next. El Koubi: How can educational institutions ensure that they’re preparing students for jobs that will be relevant in the future? Kress: One of the things we look at very closely is labor market information. Where are the jobs today? Are they paying sustaining wages? Do we have enough seats in those programs? Do we need to expand them? We have an entire arm of NOVA that just looks at the data. Then that same group engages actively and surveys employers. In fact,


we partnered with the Northern Virginia Chamber on its first-ever workforce index to look at needs — not just today’s, but what will they be tomorrow?

and cybersecurity, but also provide social and cultural capital through internships and a full-scale development program that help students navigate these industries.

We have active advisory boards for all of our career and technical education programs, helping us to understand not just the skill sets students need for today’s employment, but where these industries are going so we can prepare that curriculum, partner with them, and recruit students and faculty. Because this is such a pressing matter for all of us, I’m starting a new Future of Work Business Advisory Council to the president that will meet at least twice a year, probably three times a year, whose purpose is to scan the horizon.

That’s creating a next-generation workforce, unlike anything I’ve seen previously. An innovation ecosystem is growing right now in NOVA’s backyard, such as Amazon HQ2, or the announcement about Google’s scaled-up investment across Virginia, and the Grow with Google program coming to the community colleges. There’s greater interest in pushing more of this through career and technical education, dual enrollment, so that students in high school might even earn those credentials before they graduate so they’re ready to go.

El Koubi: I’m so glad you said that, Anne, because it’s one example of why I think Virginia is America’s top state for talent. A big part of that is not only the strengths of institutions like yours, but the connections being made between the incredible assets across the Commonwealth. You’ve been at NOVA now for just over two years, after spending much of your career in Florida and New York. How does Virginia compare to some of the previous places where you have lived and worked? Kress: I just love it here. There’s a commitment across Virginia, and certainly in Northern Virginia, to innovation and collaboration across sectors that is really driving change and driving opportunity. I’ll give you an example that NOVA’s part of with Micron Technology. When Micron decided to invest their billions in Northern Virginia, they partnered with NOVA to make sure they would have a workforce to keep that going. But then NOVA looked around and began a partnership with Year Up. They recruit underserved students and young adults into programs that prepare them not just for work in industries like mechatronics

That’s what’s building the knowledge economy. It sets Virginia apart. Virginia’s commitment to talent is nationally recognized. El Koubi: Like you, I have loved working in Virginia. I have loved living in Virginia. Are there any hidden gems that you’ve discovered in Northern Virginia, or any other favorite spots as you have explored this beautiful Commonwealth? Kress: I live near the Potomac. I don’t live too far from Mount Vernon. It’s not a hidden gem because it’s right there, but I do love driving and walking along the Potomac in every single season. It is gorgeous. My husband and I have been exploring the region through its restaurants. We love Restaurant Week and seeing the many cultures across our region in these family-owned restaurants. We’re eating very well here. One of the great things about Northern Virginia is the diversity of culture, the richness that brings, and the strength it brings to the region. So, it’s been a true delight.

For the full interview, visit



Virginia to theWorld

Unique program has Virginia students acting as export advisers


ne Virginia company’s vision of how we grow our food may sound like science fiction. But it’s getting an unusual assist from a unique partnership forged by VEDP’s International Trade Division. The Virginia International Trade Alliance (VITAL), which has helped to breathe life into more than 100 Virginia companies looking for export advice, could ultimately impact companies across the state and importers and exporters across the globe. Among VITAL’s most compelling projects is the work it’s recently completed — free of charge — for a Richmond company that’s focused on growing vegetables in water instead of soil. That may be just the tip of the iceberg. The export market screams opportunity — roughly 95% of the world’s population lives outside the United States. Van R. Wood, a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, notes that the global economy is projected to grow to nearly $300 trillion in the next 30 years. If this does come to pass, the majority of market opportunities and sourcing options may lie in larger emerging markets (e.g., India, China, Mexico, Brazil, Africa) as opposed to developed markets (e.g., Europe, Japan, Australia). Forward-looking companies should have a full array of global markets on their radar screens.


Babylon Micro-Farms in Richmond used the VITAL program to identify the most logical countries to export its hydroponic farming systems.



FINDING MARKETS FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECH It all starts with just a single head of lettuce. Or with some freshly grown basil. Or even a leaf of chard.

They really can come up with criteria that companies might not think about in segmenting an export market. It’s all about picking the countries that give you the highest chance of success. MARC OOSTERHUIS Chief Operating Officer, Babylon Micro-Farms

It doesn’t really matter which vegetable, because all of this can be grown by Richmond-based Babylon Micro-Farms via the very same hydroponic farming system — without a speck of soil. Babylon’s water-based systems are powered remotely by cloud technology, and the company wanted to put them in front of as many potential customers as made sense. That’s why Babylon found some unique help from VITAL in its bid to ultimately get its special technology exported across the globe.

A WIN-WIN PROPOSITION FOR COMPANIES AND UNIVERSITIES The program is also improving the export knowledge of the student researchers. “We are educating the next cadre of international managers to understand the nature of globalization and best practices for finding markets,” Wood said.

“The idea is to eliminate food deserts and bring fresh vegetables within reach of everyday people,” says Marc Oosterhuis, the company’s chief operating officer.

Wood says he has benchmarked the free export advice that Virginia companies receive from his master’s classes against major consulting firms. By the end of one semester, the business would receive about 135 student hours of consultation, which could be valued at tens of thousands of dollars.

That particular goal, however, is a bit further in the future. In the near term, Babylon is simply trying to figure out which countries around the world might be the most logical export candidates for its hydroponic systems. And, just as importantly, what are the best markets within each country for expanding the use of their products.

For Wood, who helped create VITAL in 2016, it’s been an annual, real-world adventure through which he’s led his graduate students for the past six years — a unique alliance among Virginia’s universities, businesses, and state agencies. He says each VITAL project has presented his classes with unique challenges.

That’s where VITAL has helped Babylon move forward, with a major assist from a class of graduate business students at VCU. Overseeing this particular project — and many others like it through the years — is Wood, the university’s Philip Morris Chair in International Business and director of the VCU Center for International Business Advancement.

VCU completed a VITAL project for Fortune Auto, a Powhatan Countybased manufacturer of performance automotive suspension and shock absorber systems. Elsewhere in Virginia, GMU completed a VITAL project for Henrico County-based Bluetooth developer Spanalytics, while Stauntonbased Huss & Dalton Guitar Company got insights from JMU students. All three companies went on to engage further with VEDP International Trade services — Fortune Auto and Huss & Dalton participated in VEDP’s market research services and Trade Show Program, while Spanalytics enrolled in VEDP’s Global Defense Program and completed a trade mission to Mexico.

Along with VCU, three other Virginia research universities — George Mason University (GMU), James Madison University (JMU), and Old Dominion University — provide Virginia companies with customized business plans and market research aimed at improving export readiness.


“No one wants to be left out of business opportunities around the world,” Wood said. “We find the markets that might want your products and services.”


AN INNOVATIVE SOLUTION TO FOOD INSECURITY Babylon’s roots are actually in Charlottesville, where the company was co-founded by University of Virginia engineering students Alexander Olesen and Graham Smith. They wanted to design a low-cost “micro-farm” to provide nutritious produce for food-insecure refugees in the Middle East. In order to reach that ultimate goal, the company had to first prove that its science was solid. So, they developed a form of vertical farming, where plants in water are stacked under LED lights. Under this scenario, weather conditions like wind, rain, and drought don’t really matter. Because of the modern technology required to develop micro-farms, the initial food costs are not cheap. Far from food deserts, early test markets have been quite the opposite. Micro-farms have proven particularly popular inside hotels, universities, hospitals, and senior communities. Oosterhuis says in some senior centers, residents have been so fascinated with the individual plants that they have even taken to giving them names.

Looking toward the future, the students advised Babylon that potential markets definitely exist in the Middle East and in European markets like Germany and the Netherlands. And, yes, with the assistance of VITAL, Oosterhuis says that Babylon “is now ready for prime time.” It has 75 micro-farms right now and hopes to have more than 600 by the end of 2023. It’s now identifying partners to work with in Dubai and Europe, and expects to finally begin to export its technology sometime during the second half of 2022. He suggests that smaller companies like his — with little to no experience in exporting — could best benefit from the VITAL program. “They really can come up with criteria that companies might not think about in segmenting an export market,” he says. “It’s all about picking the countries that give you the highest chance of success.”

We are educating the next cadre of international managers to understand the nature of globalization and best practices for finding markets. VAN R. WOOD, Ph.D. Philip Morris Chair in International Business, Virginia Commonwealth University

In his company’s case, that success can begin with a single head of lettuce.




NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Accomack County


EASTERN SHORE First settled in 1615, Virginia’s Eastern Shore, at the southern end of the Delmarva Peninsula, is known for agriculture and food and beverage production (Perdue Farms, Tyson Foods). The region is growing its manufacturing, service, and tourism sectors, along with a burgeoning aerospace and unmanned cluster based at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Accomack County, home to launch operations for Northrop Grumman and Rocket Lab (see page 6). Bounded by the Chesapeake Bay to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Eastern Shore is known for its seafood — local oysters are prized by restaurants around the world.

THE EASTERN SHORE OFFERS Abundant outdoor recreation opportunities on the region’s waterways and expansive beaches, including the longest expanse of coastal wilderness on the East Coast Wallops Island, one of four locations in the United States licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to launch into orbit


Cape Charles Beach

The Eastern Shore’s beaches range from wave-free Chesapeake Bay retreats to the wild, remote Assateague Island National Seashore on the Atlantic Ocean.



The Eastern Shore’s unique geography gave rise to numerous charming waterfront towns, from Chincoteague, on the island of the same name just south of the Maryland border, to Cape Charles, near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

Cape Charles


Northrop Grumman launches its resupply missions to the International Space Station from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Accomack County.


Rocket Lab, Accomack County

NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Accomack County


Economic Development Partners in Virginia VEDP works in close partnership with local and regional economic development organizations. For a full list of local and regional partners, visit In addition, VEDP regularly works with a wide network of statewide partners, including: State Leadership Partners

Project Delivery Partners


Colleges and universities across the Commonwealth (e.g., UVA, Virginia Tech, William & Mary)

General Assembly

Policy and Programmatic Partners Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit

GO Virginia

Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

Virginia Chamber of Commerce, as well as many local and regional chambers of commerce

Virginia Agribusiness Council

Virginia Economic Developers Association

Virginia Association of Counties

Virginia Farm Bureau

Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Commission

CSX, Norfolk Southern, and short-line railroads

Secretary of Commerce and Trade

Dominion, AEP, and other electric utilities

Secretary of Finance

The Port of Virginia

Virginia Department of Transportation

Virginia Community College System

Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation

Virginia Business Higher Education Council

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Virginia Tourism Corporation

Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association, Virginia Manufacturers Association, Virginia Maritime Association, Virginia Realtors Association, and many other trade associations

Virginia Department of Taxation

Virginia Business Council

Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

Virginia Municipal League Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions Virginia Rural Center





Roanoke Roanoke Region Region 460



Southwest Southwest Virginia Virginia 19









I81-II77 81-I77 Crossroads Crossroads 77 58

68 68



NewNew RiverRiver Valley Valley




Virginia’s Technology Councils






Northern Northern Shenandoah Shenandoah Valley Valley



Washington, Washington, D.C. D.C.

66 81

211 33



Northern Northern Virginia Virginia


33 17


Shenandoah Shenandoah Valley Valley



Greater Greater Fredericksburg Fredericksburg

Central Central Virginia Virginia

95 81

81 29






95 301



Northern Northern NeckNeck






Eastern Eastern Shore Shore

Middle Middle Peninsula Peninsula 13

Greater Greater Richmond Richmond Lynchburg Lynchburg Region Region


60 360





South South Central Central 360 Virginia 360 Virginia

Southern Southern Virginia Virginia 501








460 460







Virginia’s Virginia’s Gateway Gateway Region Region







Hampton Hampton Roads Roads





We partner with community colleges and universities to make sure that we have an ongoing strong pipeline of the talent that is needed to build these most state-of-the-art advanced technology products. SANJAY MEHROTRA President and CEO


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