Grant targets workers, training

October 30, 2011

Martinsville Bulletin

The Dan River Region Collaborative will receive a $300,000 grant to prepare workers and job seekers for employment in the region, a news release says.

The two-year grant will help identify and foster career advancement opportunities for low-wage, low-skilled employees, and help employers recruit and retain skilled workers, according to the release, information on the collaborative’s website and Julie J. Brown, DRRC project director.

It will do that by expanding the collaborative’s work with regional, employer-led work force partnerships in the areas of the advanced manufacturing, energy, health care and information technology sectors, the release states.

For instance, the collaborative has worked in the area of energy, identifying the need for energy audit specialists in the region. As a result of training provided, three small businesses have started, according to Brown and information on the collaborative’s website.

“We’d love to serve 500 (people); we’d love to serve more than that,” Brown said.

Brown said the Dan River Region Collaborative’s region includes Henry, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Halifax counties and the cities of Martinsville and Danville. The grant will allow it to expand to Rockingham, Caswell and Person counties in North Carolina.

The collaborative was founded in 2008 to address work-force development in the region. It has raised more than $1.4 million to support its efforts, the release states.

Brown said the collaborative, on a regional basis, looks at specific sectors and how to involve employers in conversations around such things as work-force needs, related policy issues and how to improve training.

For instance, CEOs and other officials of three hospitals recently met, Brown said. One of the needs identified was that in 2013, new medical code regulations will be coming out. That’s an opportunity to provide training to low-wage, low skilled hospital employees on how to use medical codes and enable them to make more money, she said.

It may not sound like much, she said, but through training, helping an employee advance, say, from an $8-an-hour job to a $9- or $9.50-an-hour job is “huge for a family.”

Officials also try to identify ways employees can get on a career path to advance to higher jobs, Brown said.

“Learning doesn’t stop, You still have to pick up additional skills to move along a career ladder,” she said.

People still need to get academic degrees, but “we need people getting new skills and getting industry-recognized credentials,” she said.

A similar meeting was held recently for employers about advanced manufacturing jobs, Brown said.

The region still has a good manufacturing base, about 19 percent of total jobs in that area compared with 9 percent nationally, she said.

One issue is how to get high school students interested in advanced manufacturing jobs, she said.

In a few weeks, a meeting of education providers will be held. Community colleges, New College Institute, National College in Martinsville and Danville, other higher educational schools and school systems have been invited, Brown said. If training needs have been identified by employers, there could be a discussion of who provides such training or how to collaborate to provide it, Brown said.

The grant represents a combination of federal funds from the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund and an equal amount of matching funds raised by the National Fund for Workforce Solutions from private donors, the release states.

In this region, The Harvest Foundation in Martinsville, the Danville Regional Foundation, The Community Foundation of the Dan River Region, the J.T. Minnie Maude Charitable Trust, the West Piedmont and South Central Workforce Investment Boards, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Revitalization Commission, along with the regional chambers of commerce and the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, have joined with the National Fund on the initiative, according to the news release.

Regional employers in the manufacturing, health care, energy or IT sectors who are interested in learning more about the collaborative should contact Julie Brown, DRRC project director, at or (434) 836-5674.


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