Program preps students for modern workforce while solving real employer problems
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) is the first in Virginia to enter a regional partnership with Raleigh-based nonprofit District C, bringing an innovative work-based learning model to Southern Virginia and surrounding localities. The unique program will help fill the skills gap experienced by employers and will help meet the work-based learning needs of Virginia high school students.
District C’s proven model, covered by Forbes and Education Week, coaches diverse teams of students to solve real, complex problems for local businesses or organizations. District C recently partnered with the new Boost by Kaplan program, joining other well-known program partners Google and Myers-Briggs.
“The leadership of District C have amassed phenomenal educational experience over their careers, including work with Harvard and Kaplan,” said Dr. Julie Brown, Director of Advanced Learning at IALR. “Their unique learning model addresses the true needs of employers of the new economy – a need for workers with complex problem-solving, leadership and collaboration skills with the ability to work in diverse teams.”
As Education Week mentions in its feature story on District C, “so-called ‘soft skills’ are in high demand, but employer surveys consistently show that students are entering the workforce without them.” As technology exponentially improves and automates routine and manual tasks, employers place a deeper emphasis on hiring individuals with higher level thinking and decision-making skills.
“We are so excited to be joining the great work that is already going on at IALR and in Southern Virginia,” said Anne Jones, District C Co-Founder. “We can’t wait to see the value the District C Coaches and their students will bring to the community.”
IALR’s Next generation Of Work (NOW) program addresses the soft skills gap by using the District C model to create genuine, collaborative, problem-solving experiences for high school students. The program starts with coaching student teams on District C mindsets and tools before introducing them to a business partner with a real problem. For about three weeks, students research, brainstorm and develop their solution. Coaches guide them through the process, but the solutions and final pitches are 100 percent student-driven. The plans are shared with business partners before a virtual audience.
“Virginia has recently emphasized the importance of work-based learning, or WBL, and is endeavoring to increase the number of students participating in these experiences,” said Jessie Vernon, Program Coordinator at IALR, who leads the NOW program. “The District C model helps address many of the challenges of providing meaningful WBL on a large scale, and increasingly important, in a virtual setting. For a minimal time investment, the partnering business positively impacts anywhere from four to 12 students. The District C model is an amazing tool to add to our ‘WBL tool kit’ in Southern Virginia.”
To date, IALR has held two NOW cohorts virtually – one in the spring of 2020 for students of the Academy for Engineering and Technology (AET) and one over the summer open to any interested high school juniors, seniors or recent high school graduates. Four organizations have participated: Dan River Year AmeriCorps, Dewberry, Kyocera SGS Tech Hub and Tyton BioSciences; 33 students have completed the program; and three educators and IALR staff members have trained and become certified as District C Coaches. According to NOW survey results from business participants, all four partners indicate they have implemented or plan to implement at least part of the solutions students provided.
“The pleasure and honor of this project was all mine. It is inspiring to see young people critically think like that,” said Jason Wells, President of Kyocera SGS Tech Hub. “I found the time invested very worthwhile.”
IALR will continue to offer the NOW program to students throughout Southern Virginia and beyond with all activities online for the time-being. Additionally, IALR and District C hope to offer a Coaches Institute for educators in early 2021. Participating educators would receive training and become District C certified coaches so they can implement the model directly at their schools. Educators and administrators interested in the Coaches Institute should contact Jessie Vernon at firstname.lastname@example.org. IALR and District C will host a virtual information session at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 for business and community members to learn more about how they can become involved. To register, visit bit.ly/NOWinfosession. For more information about NOW, visit ialr.org/now.
Tobacco Commission grant to assist with start-up, help fill sonographer shortage
Sovah Health – Danville and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) are launching a new Sonography Training Program, the first of its kind in Southern Virginia, to fill a regional workforce shortage for registered sonographers. The accelerated 12-month certificate program will help develop and retain regional talent and meet local health care employers’ recruitment needs.
“Sovah Health values education and with the success of our Radiologic Technology Program, we are excited to be able to provide the new Sonography School to our community with a wide variety of challenging and rewarding career options,” said Alan Larson, Market President, Sovah Health and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sovah Health – Danville. “We are proud to be able to invest in a high-demand professional skill that will prepare these students for a career in a rapidly growing field in health care.”
Regional health care providers like Sovah Health have expressed limited access to registered sonographers, which has led to unfilled positions and dependence on outside resources like temporary/traveling talent services. In the past, the nearest training programs were located in Charlottesville and Winston Salem. A local program, located at Sovah Health – Danville, is anticipated to help resolve the workforce shortage, which could deepen if not addressed. According to Career Education Colleges and Universities, over the next decade, the demand for medical sonographers will grow by 23 percent, over three times the national average.
The start-up of the training program will be supported by a $238,775 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and matched with support from Sovah Health and IALR. Sovah Health will lead, develop and execute the training program. IALR will serve as fiscal agent and, in conjunction with the Dan River Region Collaborative, will oversee exploration of opportunities for what would be the state’s second registered health care apprenticeship with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.
“We are thrilled to help meet the needs of our region’s health care providers while preparing our local talent for highly skilled, competitive-wage job opportunities,” said Dr. Julie Brown, Director of Advanced Learning at IALR and Project Director of the Dan River Region Collaborative. “I look forward to steering the exploration of a state-registered apprenticeship opportunity that leverages work-based learning best practices to produce career-ready graduates for our employers.”
Qualified candidates for the training program include students who have already earned a two-year associate’s health degree or a degree in another discipline such as radiologic technology, registered nursing or registered respiratory therapy. Additionally, students with a bachelor’s degree and course work in physics and anatomy are qualified to apply to the program. The Sonography Training Program would provide an opportunity to upgrade their skills with an additional year of training and be considered for high-wage, high-demand jobs.
Sovah Health – Danville’s School of Health Professions offers an associate degree in radiologic technology, which presents a pathway opportunity for the Sonography Training Program. Sovah’s accredited Radiologic
Technology program, in practice since 2004, boasts a 94-percent five-year pass rate and a 100-percent five-year job placement rate.
Graduates of the Sonography Training Program will be qualified to take two nationally recognized certification exams. The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) is the most highly regarded certifying body. Additionally, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers certification in sonography.
Those interested in applying for the Sonography Training Program should complete the application located on Sovah Health’s website. For more information, call 434-799-2271 and ask for the School of Health Professions Program Director or Sonography Program Director. The deadline for applications is Dec. 15, 2021, and financial aid is available for those qualified.
Sovah Health – Danville is excited to welcome the new Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program Director, Elaine Nichols, MSSL, BS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT, R(T)R, ACUE. Elaine comes to Danville from Bedford, VA where she worked at Piedmont Virginia Community College as the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program Director. She obtained her Bachelor of Radiologic Sciences from College of Health and Life Sciences in Roanoke, Master of Strategic Sciences from Mountain State University, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education in Leadership Studies from the University of Lynchburg. In her spare time, Elaine enjoys reading, embroidery, quilting, and serving on the Virginia Society of Ultrasound.
Elaine will have virtual meet and greet zoom sessions for potential students to ask questions and learn more about the program. The first session will be October 16th at 5pm. For more information on these sessions, contact email@example.com.
About Sovah Health
Sovah Health is a regional healthcare delivery system, serving the south-central Virginia and north central North Carolina region. It is comprised of two hospital campuses, one in Danville and the other in Martinsville. The Danville campus is the leading medical center in the Dan River Region of Virginia and North Carolina employing approximately 1300 people and with 175 physicians are on the medical staff. The Martinsville campus has been at the heart of the Martinsville and Henry County community and the surrounding area providing exceptional healthcare and services to the region since 1970. Sovah Health – Martinsville has more than 120 physicians on the medical staff and employs more than 850 people.
17 localities – including Virginia’s original six launched – to benefit
The Dan River Region Collaborative (DRRC) and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), in partnership with regional economic development agencies, school divisions, workforce development boards and employers, are pleased to announce a workforce development grant award from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC). The $260,674 grant, along with matching funds, will help maximize the impact and growth of the ACT Work Ready Community (WRC) Expansion Phase II effort, which will include all 15 GO Virginia Region 3 localities, as well as Greensville County and Emporia of the Crater Planning District.
“This support from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission builds on a strong and collaborative regional partnership that has demonstrated measurable growth to better position thousands of job candidates across most of Southern Virginia with an employer-recognized and valued credential,” said Dr. Julie Brown, Project Director for the Dan River Region Collaborative and Director of Advanced Learning for the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. “The Work Ready Community designation will continue to greatly assist these localities in marketing the competencies of their workforce to existing and prospective employers.”
TRRC funding, along with matched funding, will support 12 certified localities as they maintain their WRC status (progressing through maintenance Periods 1, 2 and 3) and will assist five localities in achieving their initial WRC goals. Efforts will include initial ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) testing and NCRC retakes to improve certification level along with job profiles for participating employers and dedicated personnel to work with employers and partner agencies. Funding partners on the matching side include IALR, Danville Regional Foundation, local school divisions, workforce development boards and regional employers.
The ACT WorkKeys NCRC is a competency- and evidence-based, industry-recognized, third-party validated, portable and stackable certification that validates work readiness skills in applied math, graphic literacy and workplace documents. As sufficient numbers of tests are passed in a locality, it is then certified as a Work Ready Community. Once initial certification is attained, communities must reach further goals to maintain certification.
Companies such as Owens-Illinois (Pittsylvania), Eastman Chemical (Martinsville), Ten Oaks (Patrick), Nucor Buildings Group (Mecklenburg) and Genesis Décor (Amelia) have supported the NCRC, and some have adopted it as part of their job applicant pre-screening process. Outcomes are truly significant, including 10,622 NCRCs earned as of June 30, 2020, and more than 5,500 additional certificates expected in the two-year period of the WRC Expansion Phase II project, which covers the majority of the Southern TRRC region.
“The implementation of this process has improved the efficiency of our interviewing. We are talking to applicants with a real motivation to work at O-I who have proven skill levels,” said Stephanie McGuire, HR Manager for Owens-Illinois. “The job profiling and WorkKeys program provides us a valid and well-documented screening tool.”
Localities participating in the CWRC initiative include:
Work Ready Communities maintaining designation:
- Halifax County – Maintaining Period 3
- Henry County – Maintaining Period 2
- Pittsylvania County – Maintaining Period 2
- City of Martinsville – Maintaining Period 2
- City of Danville – Maintaining Period 1
- Patrick County – Maintaining Period 1
- Lunenburg County – Maintaining Period 1
- Mecklenburg County – Maintaining Period 1
- Amelia County – Maintaining Period 1
- Brunswick County – Maintaining Period 1
- Charlotte County – Maintaining Period 1
- Nottoway County – Maintaining Period 1
GO Virginia Region 3 Expansion – localities targeted to achieve initial CWRC status:
- Buckingham County – 99%
- Cumberland County – 93%
- Prince Edward County – 95%
Crater Planning District – localities targeted to achieve initial CWRC status:
- Greensville County – 98%
- Emporia City – 85%
In July 2013, Southern Virginia was the first region in Virginia to commit to earning the ACT Certified Work Ready Community designation. The launch of the original six localities included the cities of Danville and Martinsville and the counties of Halifax, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania.
Opportunities include stipend, educational award, professional development
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) is seeking to fill 10 remaining member slots for its Dan River Year AmeriCorps program, which fosters a year of community service consisting of mentoring students in STEM-related areas and coaching literacy skills. Service sites include two positions at Danville Public Schools, three at the Danville Science Center, two at Gretna Middle School, two at Halifax Middle School and one at Martinsville Middle School.
“Our AmeriCorps program is a unique opportunity for individuals looking to enhance their resume, build relationships and add new skills while giving back to the community,” said Dr. Julie Brown, Director of Advanced Learning at IALR. “Not only do service members enjoy helping students, but they also receive professional development, a stipend and an educational award.”
Supported by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, IALR and the Danville Regional Foundation, the regional Dan River Year AmeriCorps program is designed to build the area’s capacity for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by addressing literacy challenges. The available STEM/Literacy Tutor and Coach positions work with students to enhance their STEM and literacy skills, as well as to help with related service projects. For their service, AmeriCorps members receive a stipend as well as a Segal Education Award to pay for college or to repay student loans.
Twenty positions were recently filled across the Southern Virginia footprint spanning Pittsylvania County, Halifax County and the cities of Danville and Martinsville. There are 10 open slots. To view the list of current openings and to apply for member positions, candidates should visit bit.ly/DRYpositions. For more information, those interested may contact Dana Silicki at Dana.Silicki@ialr.org or (434) 766-6729.
AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, and leads the nation’s volunteering and service efforts. The Virginia Department of Social Services, through the Office on Volunteerism and Community Services, oversees the Dan River Year program and provides support. For more information, visit www.NationalService.gov.