NEWPORT NEWS, V.A., June 22, 2021
Virginia Technical Academy, a Newport News trade school, is now offering financial assistance for students through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Re-Employ Virginians (REV). State residents who are unemployed or currently make less than $15 per hour may qualify for partial or full tuition credits under the programs.
WIOA is designed to strengthen America’s workforce system by helping jobseekers with the education and training needed to find high-quality careers. The program also assists employers when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified workers. REV helps current and future students cover the cost of tuition and fees, up to $3,000, in fields that will lead to careers.
According to the Virginia Department of Labor, the demand for skilled tradesmen in the Hampton Roads area is expected to be 35-40% from 2020 through 2026. There will soon be a need for qualified technicians, which the Virginia Technical Academy hopes to fill. Classes for the fall cohort begin on September 30, and there are only 60 spots left.
To apply for financial aid through WIOA, you can visit a Virginia Career Works location near you. Even though there’s a limited number of seats remaining for the fall program, Virginia Technical Academy works hard to make sure financial aid is available for everyone.
David Gillespie, founder and president of Virginia Technical Academy, goes above and beyond to make programs accessible for all students. Last year, the school partnered with the CARES Scholarship program to provide financial assistance to students affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Virginia Technical Academy has been a great partner with the City of Newport News. Recently, they were among six training vendors that were selected through an RFP process to help city residents who were negatively impacted by COVID,” said Lisa Wornom-Zahralddin, a project manager in the City Manager’s office. “David and his team were extremely accommodating to students, offering both day and night classes for the program from September through December of 2020. Virginia Technical Academy surpassed the program goals by connecting all students with local employers offering good-paying jobs, and by working to coordinate interviews prior to graduation.”
When additional CARES Act funding couldn’t get approval in time for the spring semester, Gillespie took matters into his own hands. He personally funded 20 students’ tuition so they could stay in class to finish the program and enter the workforce. “I’ve always been a big advocate for the trades and I’m a supporter of the local community,” said Gillespie. “There has been a historical shortage of workers in the trades and COVID created a big void in employment opportunities for a lot of people. By taking this step, not only were we able to help 20 students get the training they needed to get great jobs, we helped employers find much needed help during a period of high demand and helped to fund the salaries of the 15 educators and administrators employed by the school.”
Since Fall of 2020, over 160 students are currently enrolled and or have graduated from Virginia Technical Academy. Every student that graduated in the fall semester landed a job making between $15-20 an hour.
Christopher Robinson graduated in May from the Building/Property Maintenance Apprenticeship Program thanks to funding provided by WIOA. His interest in the program was partially a response to the coronavirus pandemic and the need he saw for skilled trade workers.
“I was in the restaurant field and [it] seemed like that was taking a downslide. I was just looking around, and I saw that buildings still needed help, still needed maintaining. They were still building properties everywhere, so I thought what better time than now then to change my trajectory? As far as a career goes, I’ve always built stuff, I’ve always had a knack for putting electrical components together. I just never gave it a path,” Robinson said.
When it came to acquiring the funding from WIOA, Robinson shared how surprisingly simple the process was. “It was very easy. The paperwork really wasn’t that hard, it wasn’t like I had to do a bunch of running around. I just basically had to prove I was a resident and things like that,” Robinson explained.
The funding made available through the WIOA made it possible for Robinson to become a student at Virginia Technical Academy. He called the experience “eye-opening,” saying, “It wasn’t just about the academics, it was about the hands-on training. You have those guys that have been out in the field for 10-15 years, they do things that the book doesn’t really talk about. So it was like learning the little tricks of the trade.”
Robison particularly enjoyed the on-the-job training, saying, “I loved the experience there because not only did we learn the safety protocols and the correct way of doing things, but they let us do it hands-on.”
By making programs more convenient and affordable for students, Virginia Technical Academy can help the Hampton Roads community fulfill the shortage of skilled tradesmen in the area over the upcoming years.
About Virginia Technical Academy
Based in Newport News, Virginia Technical Academy offers apprenticeship programs and Accelerated Education courses in the HVAC, electrical, building maintenance, plumbing, and appliance trades. Courses are available in different levels during the day and at night to accommodate students. Virginia Technical Academy also offers training for students who don’t have a high school diploma or GED as well as continuing education classes for those who need to finish their licensing requirements.