RICHMOND — Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS) introduced the Virginia Infrastructure Academy (VIA) Thursday, which will “coordinate, scale up and replicate” infrastructure-related community college training programs statewide.
Designed to train workers to help rebuild the commonwealth’s aging infrastructure, VIA will align programs that currently produce 4,000 graduates annually, with a goal of producing a total of 35,000 qualified workers over the next five years, according to a press release.
Virginia is set to receive at least $10 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden last November, with more funding expected to come through competitive grants and other measures.
Virginia companies are struggling to fill more than 100,000 infrastructure jobs according to labor market analytics firm EMSI.
“The availability of a trained, skilled workforce continues to stand out as a significant challenge to infrastructure construction and maintenance industries in the commonwealth,” said Dr. Sharon Morrissey, interim chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Through the VIA initiative, we will continue to leverage resources, expand collaboration and provide short-term industry training and credentials leading to employment for thousands of Virginians.”
According to VCCS, the VIA will bring together community colleges and business leaders to ensure existing training programs are addressing community needs and forecasting future requirements.
Programs include heavy construction and maintenance (focusing on road, bridge, and tunnel construction); broadband expansion; and on- and off-shore wind and solar energy infrastructure and distribution.
“This is vital to the success of many Virginia businesses,” said George “Bryan” Slater, Virginia Secretary of Labor. “Our infrastructure workforce demands are growing daily, and initiatives like the Virginia Infrastructure Academy will help ensure that skilled and qualified people are available for hire, leading to a best-in-class workforce in Virginia.”
The Lumina Foundation is funding the VIA’s start-up costs with a two-year, $400,000 grant, according to the announcement, including an initial review of existing programs across Virginia’s 23 community colleges, a plan for initial program growth and outreach to potential students. FastForward, G3, and other available financial aid programs may allow students to pursue and complete these programs for little or no out-of-pocket costs.