Community college initiative could mean faster degrees, curriculum changes

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"How do we help people to get the skills they need to get the job they need to provide for their families?"

Dr. Milan Hayward is Vice President for Workforce Development at Virginia Western Community College. He's also one of the men in charge of re imagining the workforce training programs here.

"Is it possible that we're offering academic degrees right now that shouldn't be degrees? Maybe they should only be 1 year programs, or 1 year programs that should be 6 months programs, or 6 month programs that should be a single course focused on credential preparation?" he said.

Virginia Western will be competing with community colleges across the Commonwealth later this year for grant money to answer those questions. It's part of an initiative announced Tuesday by Governor Ralph Northam, designed to get more Virginians in sectors like healthcare and IT into the workforce faster.

"Well I think that those sectors have been identified as in demand across Virginia," Hayward said.

Grants of between $100,000 and $500,000 will be given to winning community colleges next year. That money, in turn, will help construct new curriculum in conjunction with employers, bridging the gap between college and workforce more quickly.

As to when those changes could take effect, "we'd probably be looking at some implementation by the fall of 2019 with more complete implementation over the calendar year," he said.