Thomas Nelson Expands Services to Veterans and Military

Thomas Nelson Community College announced a comprehensive array of new services for veterans and military to a group of more than 50 community, college and military affairs leaders attending the “Expanding Military and Veterans Services Seminar” at the Hampton Campus on Tuesday.

John C. Harvey, Jr., Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, opened the day’s activities in a briefing with Thomas Nelson executive staff and military program leads. A Community Partnership Roundtable followed featuring representatives of Thomas Nelson, the Virginia Employment Commission, Virginia’s Community Colleges, the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development, and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce who discussed recent and proposed initiatives.

“It’s very clear to me that Virginia’s Community Colleges will play a critical role in fulfilling the education, skill development and credentialing needs for our rapidly growing veterans population that will, in turn, enable Virginia’s veterans to play an important role in building Virginia’s new economy,” said Harvey, a retired four-star U.S. Navy admiral with 40 years of service.

John T. Dever, president of Thomas Nelson, announced the expanded array of enrollment and employment services for military and veterans provided at two campuses and at area military bases. “We are proud of over 45 years of education services for a student population that is increasingly from military families,” said Dever, citing new Institutional Research data that indicates 28 percent of Thomas Nelson students report having a military affiliation. “In other words, one out of four of 16,000 students is an active-duty military, military reservist, veteran, or dependent.”

The College announced six new initiatives: (1) funding two new positions supporting the Veteran Services Office and the Veteran Services Center, (2) new military transition services through the College Career Center, (3) Thomas Nelson credit classes on bases beginning in Spring, (4) new VA approval for high-demand short-term workforce certificates, (5) a new Rapid Response Re-employment Partnership for Langley Air Force Base, and (6) the certifying of full-time Thomas Nelson staff at Langley and Fort Eustis to provide VA education benefits on-site.

The Secretary pointed out that the initiative supports Governor Terry McAuliffe’s plan for “The New Virginia Economy” by increasing postsecondary credentials, aligning education with needs of businesses, and facilitating the seamless transition of veterans from the military into high-paying careers, especially in the STEM-H arenas.

Kathryn Anderson, director of Financial Aid and Veteran Services at Thomas Nelson, said the addition of two staff to Veteran Services “will further assist our veterans on a more individualized basis from their first day on campus until the completion of their certificate or degree.” In addition, the College has signed on to support “The Eight Keys to Veterans’ Success” initiative, a historic collaboration between Veteran Affairs and the federal departments of Education and Defense. “This is a commitment to create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community, centralize campus efforts for all veterans, and work with our local community partners to align services for our veterans,” she added.

“We are excited to announce that an array of workforce training courses has just been certified by the Veterans Administration for GI Benefits,” said Bud Barnett, retired U.S. Navy commander and the College’s director of Workforce Training and Continuing Education, in completing a two-year process. “These are high-demand, high-wage training health and technology programs in accelerated formats,” said Barnett. Newly approved workforce programs include Health Information Technology, Medical Coding and Billing, Medical Office Assistant, Medication Aide, Nurse Aide Education, Pharmacy Technician, Weatherization Basics, HVAC Technician, and CNC Machining.

Thomas Nelson maintains full-time offices at local military installations to provide personalized service to active- duty military, veterans, and their families. “Our on-base reps have decades of academic and military advising experience,” said Gary Pounder, retired U.S. Air Force major and director of Military Affairs and Contract Credit at Thomas Nelson. “That they can now authorize aid simplifies enrollment. They are exceptionally well qualified to assist military students in developing—and fulfilling—their academic plans.”

The College is also working closely with installation education officers to begin on-base classes at Fort Eustis and Langley AFB, beginning January 2015. “This is an exciting new chapter and will provide even more options for military students pursuing their educational goals with Thomas Nelson,” Pounder said. “And the College has received approval to offer a new credit Career Studies Certificate in Cybersecurity, which will appeal to qualified veterans with experience in information technology.”

Thomas Nelson has just been approved as an authorized testing center for the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) program. “The Air Force has asked the College to administer the CLT assessment to nine airmen in a pilot program,” said Pounder, noting that Thomas Nelson is working to establish a mobile testing capability for military bases and other locations.

The Thomas Nelson Community College Career Center has also expanded its offerings to support military transition services, said Director Franz Albertini, “For example, at the Veteran Services Center, we provide career seminars, job search and resume workshops, and job coaching for veterans.” To facilitate employment of veterans, the retired Air Force veteran said the Center has launched a Veterans Training and Employment Connection (VTEC), in partnership with the Virginia Employment Commission Veterans Affairs and Peninsula Worklink One Stop, and has joined the Virginia Association of Colleges and Employers (VACE) to copy best practices in transitioning college program graduates to good-paying careers.

Finally, Southeast Virginia RapidResponse (SEVARapidResponse), sponsored by Thomas Nelson, serving all of Hampton Roads, is working with the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Commander and the Virginia Workforce Network partners developing a “Transition and Rapid Re-employment Plan” for those affected by the Langley reduction.

In recognizing the recent designation of Thomas Nelson as a Military Friendly School by Military Times for five consecutive years, Dever thanked Thomas Nelson faculty and staff for their “exceptional commitment to serve those who have served our country and guaranteed our way of life.”