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SVCC Machining Skills Program gets approval

Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) offers an innovative Machining Skills Certification Program for soldiers who are transitioning out of the military. The program was developed through collaboration among partners, including SVCC, the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), the Fort Lee Soldier for Life Program, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, and the Crater Regional Workforce Investment Board. In June, the Machining Skills Certification Program was approved as an Army Career Skills Program, the first of its kind approved at Fort Lee. The Army Career Skills Program approval means all transitioning service members of any branch are able to engage training programs six-months from the actual separation date. Under this program, service members should be eligible for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act benefits. A graduation ceremony was held June 17 for the second Machining Skills Certification Program class based at SVCC’s Southside Virginia Education Center location in Greensville County. Ten transitioning active duty soldiers and veterans associated with Fort Lee completed the course and obtained five industry certifications through the program. Four of these industry certifications are through National Institute for Metalworking Skills and one certification through Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Bruce Sobczak, director of workforce development for the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, spoke about how the program came to fruition calling it “First Say Yes, a story of innovative collaboration.” He spoke about the partners that joined forces to make the program a success despite some obstacles. Students in the program completed 162 online modules plus 300-plus hours of hands on lab work during 18 weeks of training. U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee, Command Sgt. Maj. Clarence D. Richardson noted that the program is great for the military as it downsizes. “This is a great opportunity to take care of our service men and women and it means a lot to us,” he said. Certificates were presented to graduates by Debra Smiley, director of workforce development at SVCC. The graduates were John Bright, Jason Cates, Brandon Cooper, Kelechi Gabriel, Chad Garcia, Gary Holderness, Robert Homer, Smith Jeandenis, Vantyne Montes, and Bruce Trask. State Sen. Frank Ruff stated, “I am delighted that an effort that began with the tobacco commission working with CCAM, Southside Virginia Community College and the leadership at Fort Lee has been able to create a successful training program that is a model of how to reform skills training in Virginia.”