STANARDSVILLE — This fall, Piedmont Virginia Community College plans to expand its groundbreaking Network2Work to employers and job seekers in Louisa County and, after that, Greene County.
In a presentation before a joint meeting between the PVCC board and representatives from Greene County’s Board of Supervisors, school district and other public offices, Frank Squillace, director of employee relations, described the frantic pace of trying to keep up with demand for services.
“I’m getting a call a day from employers,” he said.
Network2Work tries to help job seekers gain skills and resources needed to find a quality job.
The program now lists nearly 100 jobs in Charlottesville and Albemarle County that pay at least $25,000, and officials are trying to now make $30,000 the threshhold for future offerings.
In order to make job seekers good candidates for those positions, Network2Work peers and mentors sit down and work through various barriers — whether it is a broken-down car, heath issues, lack of child care or lack of a degree or GED. The program then helps outline manageable steps to solve those issues and even offers loaner cars and scholarships to help bridge gaps.
The community college is frequently asked for advice from other schools across the state and country, officials said, but it’s not an easy program to replicate or even expand: the needs are present, but training peers and getting the word out takes time.
“What we really need are employers, but we also need services to be ready and peers to be present,” Squillace said.
Officials did praise Piedmont’s existing partnership with Greene County Public Schools. More than 200 students were dual enrolled at PVCC in the fall of 2018, and 35 were enrolled in the school’s early college program, which allows students to complete an associate’s degree at the same time as their high school diploma.
A next step, said Angelina Santus, a school counselor for Greene County, might be offering specific tracks for students who want to be nurses so that they can take relevant prerequisites while in high school and apply for nursing school directly after graduating from high school.
Overall, though, she noted, dual enrollment, which is subsidized in part by the county, has a huge financial benefit for students.
“Every dollar spent leads to almost triple the value in savings for students when you think about the money they would have spent to get that same credit at a four-year university,” Santus said.
In 2016, 11 students graduated from the first cohort of the early college program at William Monroe High School, according to director Andrew Renshaw. By 2020, the community college hopes 26 students will finish high school with an associate’s degree.
“This works because it’s a great partnership,” said President Frank Friedman.
Similarly, the community college has seen growing demand for its FastForward and FANTIC grants, which offer scholarships for some high-demand workforce credentials. During the 2017-18 school year, 168 Greene County residents enrolled in workforce programs, and 37 received a workforce credential.