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Collaboration is the Key To Success for CWIA

instructor and students
Career Coach Trey Hall, Success Coach Mallory Hill, Instructor Jason Spears, CDL Coordinator Joey Yates, CDL Graduate Greg Seals

by Mallory Hill

The Center for Workforce and Innovation of Appalachia (CWIA) is quickly becoming a leader in creating successful, skilled adults who are entering or reentering the workforce. Located in Appalachia, Virginia, the CWIA is a workforce-solutions-driven location of Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) and offers multiple courses including Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)training, power lineman, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), drone courses,welding, construction, and dental assisting.Space in the CWIA is also utilized by Regional Adult and Career Education of Lee,  Scott, Wise, and Norton Public Schools which offers basic education courses, as well as partnership programs primarily through the Road to Success in Virginia Program (RSVP). This partnership has already led to the success of several students and is expected to do the same for many more.

Students in front of a truck
CDL students with RACE1 Instructor, Judy Samples

The RSVP grant makes unique learning and support opportunities available for qualified students. Students are able to enroll in the program based on being eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The accepted students enroll in either CDL, CNA, customer service, or construction courses. While they are in these courses, they work with Regional Adult and Career Education staff on basic skills or work towards a GED® credential if they have not achieved a high school diploma. The partnership with Regional Adult and Career Education provides students instruction in digital and financial literacy that leads to various certifications. Students also work with a career coach and a behavioral therapist to establish skills needed to join the workforce and remain successful in their employment once they have done so. The CNA cohort is currently running at the CWIA following the successful completion of the first RSVP CDL cohort.

instructor inspecting a student truck
Michael Lewis during pre-test examination

CDL training has been offered through MECC since 2017. In July 2019, the course was offered as part of the RSVP grant to add additional basic skills and career training, as well as services to assist with non-academic barriers to success. In the case of the CDL students, the main barrier was lack of funds for transportation to get to class and back. For this, they received.

driver in the truck
Rodney Tritt in MECC’s CDL truck. He passed his CDL and began employment the next day

RSVP funds to offset their transportation expenses. Student Support Services also helped with food from the food pantry on the main campus. Because of the excellent instruction provided by CDL instructors, skills taught by the Regional Adult and Career Education, and wrap-around services to promote success during the course and after, all seven CDL students passed their driving exam. Of those seven, four have obtained employment and one is continuing his education in welding. The same success is expected for the upcoming cohorts.

The key to the success of these students, and future students, is collaboration between the Virginia Community College System, Mountain Empire Community College, and Regional Adult and Career Education. Support from the Virginia Community College system has allowed Mountain Empire to offer unique support systems. The collaboration with Regional Adult and Career Education results in program planning that sets students up for success that will last. The expertise of Regional Adult and Career Education, combined with a student-driven mission and top-notch faculty and staff of MECC, have led and will continue to lead to improved quality of life for students.

Mallory Hill

Mallory Hill is an Education Support Specialist at Mountain Empire Community College. She is the Grant Coordinator and Success Coach for the Road to Success in Virginia Program meant to assist students with any non-academic barriers to success. Mallory possesses a B.A. in history, a B.S. in psychology, and an M.S. in educational psychology.