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From Army Post to Manufacturing Floor; New Training Program Bridges the Gap

Fort Lee Soldiers in Training

The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), in collaboration with community partners in education, military affairs, workforce and economic development, has launched an advanced manufacturing program to train active duty soldiers preparing for civilian life and veterans who recently transitioned to civilian life.

The pilot program developed by CCAM and its partners is being facilitated at Southside Virginia Community College in Emporia, Va.  It includes 162 modules of customized, interactive online learning and 260 hours of project based hands-on training in advanced manufacturing principles and practices.

“The program is designed to fit the needs of Fort Lee, Virginia, veterans who can build upon their skills, knowledge and discipline from the military in the area of advanced manufacturing,” said Bruce Sobczak, Director of Workforce Development for CCAM.  “Veterans can gain specialized training and certification through the curriculum designed to prepare them for employment in this rapidly evolving and dynamic industrial field.”

The program was developed in partnership with the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (TIC), Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC), Crater Regional Workforce Investment Board, Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), 180 Skills, and Fort Lee Soldier for Life Program.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor Terry McAuliffe said, “This new workforce program for active duty soldiers and veterans is an outstanding example of the power of public and private partnerships to drive state and regional workforce solutions that will help build the new Virginia economy.  CCAM and our institutions of higher education in Southern Virginia have collaborated to stand up short term, intensive training that creates opportunities for high-value certifications and job interviews upon completion.”

“This is exactly the type of workforce solution that the Governor called for in Executive Order 23,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones.  “By working together as a team, state and regional partners are delivering these ‘Credentials to Compete’ for well-paying, available jobs.  By offering the training to active duty soldiers in the months preceding their transition from the service, the program offers our soldiers a seamless transition from active duty status to civilian employment.”

The collaboration between CCAM, higher education, the community college, military affairs, workforce development and state agencies addresses goals to train workers for careers in growth industries as well as to meet industry’s need for a trained workforce.

Joseph F. Fleming, Chairman of the Crater Regional Workforce Investment Board, stated that, “The Board is pleased to partner with CCAM and other workforce development organizations in this initiative to encourage the development of a highly skilled workforce in the Crater Region”.

Dr. Betty Adams, Executive Director, Southern Virginia Higher Education and SoVA Center for Manufacturing Excellence, said, “Keeping the military’s talent pool of transitioning soldiers in Virginia primed for high-demand manufacturing jobs is exactly the type of training CCAM and the Virginia Tobacco Commission had in mind when the Centers of Manufacturing Excellence were established.  The Southern Virginia Center for Manufacturing Excellence is honored to serve our soldiers, manufacturers and the region through this important transitional training.”

“Military service brings exceptional value to the civilian workforce,” Adams said.  “The only thing lacking is specific skills training for civilian jobs in advanced manufacturing facilities.”

Dr. Al Roberts, President, Southside Virginia Community College, said, “Southside Virginia Community College is excited about the opportunity to host this innovative pilot program.  The success of this effort is in large part due to the collaborative efforts of the many statewide partners who have shared their time, expertise and resources.”

Virginia Senator Frank Ruff, who also serves as Chairman of the Tobacco Commission’s Education Committee initially, raised the visibility with CCAM of transitioning veterans.

“The plan was for the newly established Advanced Manufacturing Centers of Excellence to be utilized to give this highly skilled and disciplined group the necessary tools to ensure a successful transition to civilian life – as well as talent for companies seeking a highly skilled and mature workforce,” Ruff said.

“The Tobacco Commission is delighted that we have been able to reach out to serve our military men and women.  These quality individuals have learned good work habits as they have served our nation.  They can provide the same work ethic and problem solving to Virginia’s manufacturing employers,” Ruff said.

The Fort Lee’s Soldier for Life Program worked with the Virginia Employment Commission to identify a pilot group of transitioning soldiers and veterans to participate.

The soldiers are training in CNC machining and will complete the program with a minimum of four National Institute for Metalworking Skills certifications in Measurement, Materials and Safety; Job Planning, Benchwork and Layout; CNC Turning: Operations; and CNC Milling: Operations.

Additionally, participants can complete two optional certifications in CNC Turning: Programming, Setup & Operations; and CNC Milling: Programming Setup and Operations.

Sobczak said active duty military transitioning out of service and recently discharged veterans often face a challenging job market.  And manufacturing companies often are challenged to fill “mid-skill” level jobs within their organizations.

Training is provided at no cost to eligible participating students or employers, thanks to funding provided by the Crater Regional Workforce Investment Board under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market.

More than 15 Virginia manufacturing companies plan to interview the pilot program graduates when they earn certifications in late August.

“Mid-skilled manufacturing jobs require more than a high school education and not necessarily a college degree.  Traditional training programs are based on 16-week semesters, but Fort Lee soldiers have the unique opportunity to pursue training during the last three months of their enlistment.  Creating a condensed program that takes advantage of this timeframe gives the soldiers greater opportunities to successfully transition into the civilian workforce,” Sobczak said.  “Students receive two-and-a-half years of training in approximately five months with this hybrid online and hands-on lab program.”

CCAM and its partners plan to use the program as a model for other regions in Virginia and nationwide.  New training locations near other bases will be identified, as well as piloting of a second skills training curriculum – industrial maintenance.

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