Editorial: Virginia Community Colleges Have Toolkit to Drive Enrollment Recovery | Editorial
Second, the pandemic has only increased the need for skilled workers in high-demand industries. Launched in 2016, Virginia’s FastForward Program provided short-term workforce training (typically six to 12 weeks, with flexible hours) to over 24,500 community college students.
The results for workers are clear. In January, VCCS published a survey capturing the experiences of 289 FastForward graduates who graduated just before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020). Students saw their salaries increase by an average of $ 8,000. More than 80% of those surveyed also said they have access to workplace benefits, including paid time off, health insurance and satisfactory hours.
Employers’ needs also continue to be met through FastForward opportunities. According to a National Skills Coalition (NSC) 2020 fact sheet49% of jobs in the Commonwealth are ‘medium skills’: they require training beyond high school, but not a four-year college degree.
The NSC has viewed these roles as “the backbone of the US economy” and the FastForward program continues to be a major asset to Virginia in filling this important part of its workforce. Like a May blog post highlighted, in healthcare for example, each VCCS campus operates at least one FastForward program. Some offer up to 15, ranging from billing and coding to pharmacy technician and EKG training.