One of the main objectives of the G3 - Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back initiative is to take select academic programs such as mechatronics and have them culminate with an associate degree.
A little more than two years ago, then-Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam proposed a program called G3 - Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back. The idea is to provide education and training in areas expected to be in high demand in the 21st century. It’s an agreement among the state, Virginia's Community Colleges (VCCS) and Virginia businesses.
In January, Thomas Nelson was awarded a $340,000 planning grant from the state to move forward with now-Governor Northam’s plan. According to Terry Wagner, the College's grants program manager, Thomas Nelson received the second highest amount behind Northern Virginia Community College.
Thomas Nelson's Academic Affairs office and its Workforce Development team identified 10 academic programs that would be ideal for the initiative. The grant covered four part-time positions to administer the program and manage funds.
“We found four really top-notch people for the positions, one project manager, two unit coordinators and one administrator,” said Science, Engineering and Technology Dean Seyed Akhavi, who is also the G3 grant director.
One of the main goals with the grant is to take the 10 programs that were identified – information technology and cybersecurity, early childhood education, administration of justice, mechatronics, HVAC, welding, machining, unmanned systems, dental assistance and nursing – and have them culminate with an associate degree.
“Each is in a different place in terms of creating Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 (credentials),” Akhavi said. “Basically, the state wants to have stackable credentials, meaning a basic Career Studies Certificate (leads to) an advanced Career Studies Certificate and an associate degree.”
The role of the four-person team that was hired to manage the grant is to help take the grant from the planning stages to implementation.
“To put it in a nutshell, we want to make sure the academic side, the people who develop these programs and steps, are following the guidelines for what the grant is supposed to do,” said James Halsey, G3 grant project manager. “We’re trying to see where we are, keep it in the lines and keeping it in conjunction with the deadlines and on task … It’s a lot of coordination.”
The initial grant was for the planning of the G3 program. The next big step comes when the Virginia General Assembly, which convenes in January 2020, is expected to consider a funding request to implement the planned programs.
Halsey said if things go well, the 10 programs slated for upgrades could be available in fall 2020.
“Changing courses takes time and lots of approval,” he said, adding the wait would be worth it.
Since it involves the VCCS and not just Thomas Nelson, all state residents could benefit.
“The hope is every Virginian will have the opportunity to at least get an associate degree if they want it, and led to better employment,” Halsey said. “It’s just a game-changer if it goes off like we’re anticipating.”