VA Ready has fast and free retraining for good, open jobs in Virginia

Virginia’s unemployment rate remains high, but many companies based in the state have well-paying jobs going unfilled owing to a lack of people with the right skills — a gap which the new nonprofit Virginia Ready Initiative seeks to close.

Supported by two dozen Virginia companies, individual donors and the Virginia Community College System, VA Ready just received a $30,000 commitment from Microsoft for its programs.

It provides incentives for motivated but out-of-work Virginians who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to re-skill for in-demand jobs at Virginia employers. It says there are many of those.

“Year after year in Virginia, there are jobs that are open that are not filled because we don’t have enough people with these exact credentials,” Caren Merrick, VA Ready’s CEO, told WTOP.

“And so these credentials were developed based on the jobs that are open now. The benefit for companies is that they can get a pipeline of people who are trained, and these skills are highly valued and they are highly sought after.”

Those who receive a credential are connected to VA Ready’s business partners for interviews. The preapproved courses are free, can be taken at any of Virginia’s 23 community colleges, and are tailored to the most in-demand yet unfilled jobs in the state.

There are 30 credential courses available, and the retraining and certification is fast.

“These credentialed programs go from two weeks to 12 weeks, and they’re in fields like health care, manufacturing and trade and also computer and cyber,” Merrick said.

“Think about jobs like emergency medical technician, certified nurse assistant, a CompTIA course that helps someone man a help desk — those types of jobs.”

Those who earn their credentials also leave with a little cash, receiving a $1,000 Credential Achievement Award.

VA Ready was officially launched in June and began enrolling students in August. To date, more than 440 Virginians are taking part in the program, with 26 having already completed and earned their credentials and moved on to full-time employment.

The nonprofit has launched a jobs posting board for those who earn credentials and it invites any company in Virginia to find out how to be a partner and post jobs.

A list of VA Ready’s re-skilling careers is online, as is information on how to enroll.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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