COVID-19 has touched many of our lives in ways we never imagined. Whether you are a parent, a student, an employee, or a business owner, the last year has been challenging and unparalleled. However, Virginia has launched an initiative to help individuals impacted by COVID-19. As president of MECC, I want to make sure our community is aware of this unique opportunity to receive career training at low or no cost.
If you lost your job to COVID-19, Mountain Empire Community College can help. Thanks to the newly announced Re-Employing Virginians (REV) grants, you could attend a short-term training program, or take an entire semester of classes, at MECC without having to pay tuition and fees. You must act quickly though. To claim your grant, you must meet the program’s criteria and enroll before the close of business on Monday, December 14, 2020. Thousands of Virginians have already reached out to inquire about these grants, and we expect to hear from thousands more.
For those that may not qualify for REV funds, it is important to know that more than 90% of MECC students do qualify for some type of federal, state, or private scholarship aid. In fact, MECC distributed millions in federal and state financial aid and $700,000 in scholarship assistance to students this year. Our goal is to make sure that no student faces an insurmountable financial burden if they want to attend college. Now, more than ever, Southwest Virginia needs trained, skilled employees to fill the jobs of the future.
More than 1.1 million Virginians have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began. Sadly, we know that many of the restaurant, retail, and hospitality jobs that have been lost are simply not coming back. Experts say our economy will not fully recover until 2023 at the earliest. That is much too long to wait for most Virginians, especially those who are supporting a family. Here is Southwest Virginia, we need highly-skilled workers for the jobs of the future. Opportunities are opening in cyber security and computer technology, advanced manufacturing, and health care. These critical times call for strategic initiatives that encourage and remove barriers to career training.
Governor Ralph Northam has committed $30M to create the REV program from Virginia’s share of the federal CARES Act – money that was allocated to help people who lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With each grant worth up to $3,000, it covers the cost of tuition and fees for a short-term training program, or up to a semester of MECC classes, in programs that lead to good-paying careers in high-demand fields. Eligible program areas of study include Early Childhood Education, Healthcare, Information Technology, Manufacturing, Public Safety, and Skilled Trades.
MECC Advisors, coaches, and counselors stand ready to help determine if you qualify for a REV grant or other funding opportunities. To apply and learn more, visit https://www.mecc.edu/rev/ or call and speak with an advisor personally at 276.523.2400.
MECC’s academic and workforce programs lead to stackable industry credentials. Those credentials can help you in at least two ways. First, earning the credential demonstrates to businesses in high-demand fields that you have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary to begin a career, making you much more likely to be hired. Secondly, you can build upon your first credential by earning additional credentials, which would help you advance in your career. This flexible approach means you will not have to choose between going to work and going to school. You can do both. We hope you will check out the various career paths possible by visiting www.mecc.edu/pathways. To view a list of short-term MECC trainingprograms, visit www.mecc.edu/workforce.
The December 14 deadline to enroll and receive REV funding is not flexible, however. Whether you are considering a short-term program that begins before year’s end, or one that is offered during our spring 2021 semester, we urge you to apply today.
I hope for a better day for Southwest Virginia – for our health and for our economy. I look forward to working with you to build an #MECCStrong community.
Dr. Kristen Westover serves as president of Mountain Empire Community College, starting her career in education as a high school math teacher.