The Pathways to the American Dream project is off to a fantastic start. An H1-B project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and awarded to the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Area Consortium Board, “Pathways” covers four of the 15 Workforce Development areas in Virginia. Pathways is a systems-building project with the explicit intent of building a pipeline of skilled workers in manufacturing, healthcare, and IT so reginal businesses can remain competitive and grow. To accomplish our intended purpose, Pathways has three key features: An online portal that connects workers to training opportunities, local websites, the state’s Virginia Workforce Connection site, and other sites like CareerOneStop, and O*Net’s My Next Move; the development of a Prior Learning Assessment system in the community college system so academic credit can be awarded to working adults for demonstrated competencies; and training toward middle-skilled occupations resulting in competences and credentials valued by businesses. As such, we are intending to enhance workforce development capacity through an education and training system that adapts quickly to the changing needs of businesses.
In the field are Workforce Systems Navigators and a Business Services Specialists to work directly with jobseekers and businesses. The Navigators’ role is to provide systemic, cross-sector coordination to develop and strengthen strategic partnerships in the workforce system for a collective impact. The Business Services Specialists’ role is to strengthen business engagement in the workforce system to ensure businesses have an active role in workforce system activities. Thus, Pathways is not just another training program. Rather, it is striving to fill gaps and avoid duplication of effort. While there is much need for job training, there is also quite a significant investment ranging from federal to local funds. So, Pathways seeks out and covers the gaps. Funding gaps so far have been in credentialing exam preparation courses, credentials, licensing, background checks, uniforms, tools, and other costs that are needed for employment in middle-skilled occupations. Additionally, if there are funding gaps for tuition and books, Pathways can support those needs. Because there is no income eligibility, the door is open for working adults who need financial assistance to advance in their job (or seek employment in a middle-skilled job in another industry).
After the start-up period, Pathways began enrolling in June with New River Community College a frontrunner in the project. Over 30 Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses were assisted in preparing for their state boards as well as their credentialing fees and other expenses new workers have when transitioning to employment. At present, all RN’s are gainfully employed, and half of the LPN’s have successfully become employed. The remaining LPN’s are awaiting their exam results. NRCC quickly seized the opportunities that Pathways has to offer the community as well as their individual students. They mobilized very fast and invited the Navigator to enrollment events to speak to students. We are expecting the outcomes to continue to be positive in the New River Valley, ultimately helping businesses have the skilled and credentialed employees they need to sustain and grow.
For more information about the Pathways to the American Dream project, contact Jenny Bolte at Jenny.Bolte@NRMRWIB.org or 540-838-9400.