Your Turn — Partnering with the Tobacco Commission

Published 7:30 am Friday, October 21, 2022

For more than two decades, Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) has partnered with the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (VTRRC) to help bring opportunities to people in our service areas. Our shared goals include the provision of affordable postsecondary education options, the creation of workforce training alternatives for local job seekers, and the promotion of economic growth to bring renewed vitality to the region.

The VTRRC was established by Virginia’s General Assembly in 1999. Its purposes included compensating tobacco farmers for losses that resulted from social and regulatory changes and to aid in the renaissance of struggling tobacco-dependent communities. After the Commission’s compensation program was fully completed in 2013, the VTRRC was able to focus all its energies on community revitalization.

If you toured SVCC’s two campuses and five centers, you would find the VTRRC’s fingerprints everywhere. Support for education and workforce development has always been one of the Commission’s top priorities, and this emphasis aligns with SVCC’s mission to serve as a gateway to education, training, and employment opportunities. Working together, we have accomplished much.

VTRRC has supplied critical funding in support of numerous endeavors, and through their processes they have multiplied the impact of many of our other partners who provided matching funds for programs and projects. The full list of remarkable achievements makes my head spin. Let me highlight just a few examples.

SVCC’s Occupational Technical Center located at Pickett Park in Blackstone began as a partnership between SVCC, Nottoway County, and the VTRRC. Today it is a vibrant center offering valuable workforce credentials in Truck Driver Training, Diesel Technology, Power Line Worker Training, and Solar Installation. These occupations are in high demand, and graduates of the training programs earn valuable credentials that lead to employment.

The VTRRC has also assisted students in SVCC’s healthcare programs. VTRRC has helped us upgrade facilities, incorporate state-of-the-art equipment, and expand programs to meet the regional need for skilled nurses and others who serve as important members of healthcare teams. In one very recent example, VTRRC assistance enabled the addition of a weekend option for students enrolling in the Associate Degree of Nursing program at the Estes Community Center. The first cohort of students in this innovative program is already up and running. 

One more example can be found at SVCC’s Center for Information Technology Excellence, which is located at the Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill. VTRRC support was vital to launching this important program. Through it, students participate in hands-on learning activities that prepare them for real-world work environments within the Information Technology industry.

These snapshots provide just a small glimpse of what we’ve been able to accomplish in partnership with the VTRRC. I could go on about all the ways students have received financial support through the VTRRC to continue their education after high school. I could enumerate programs that have benefited students training for positions in industrial technologies, agribusiness careers, teaching professions, and so many more, but you get the idea, so I’ll stop here.

VTRRC says it “seeks to accelerate regional transformation, giving citizens expansive opportunities for education and employment, and providing communities the benefits of economic stability, diversification, and enhanced prosperity.” This touch is evident through SVCC’s students, and all the communities across the region that have benefitted from our graduates’ career choices.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, which covers 10 counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.