Governor Announces $4.3 Million Federal Grant for Career Pathways Project
~Program will help nearly 500 Virginians with disabilities~
RICHMOND — Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that Virginia has received a $4.3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help nearly 500 Virginians with disabilities gain new skills and credentials to seek employment in competitive, high-demand, high-quality occupations. The five-year grant will allow the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) and the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) to develop and implement a demonstration project to enhance Virginia’s existing regional career pathways systems to serve individuals with disabilities, including young adults and veterans.
Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor McAuliffe said, “This grant will advance DARS and DBVI’s mission to train more Virginians with disabilities to succeed in jobs in industry sectors that are key for building a new Virginia economy. I am proud of the way our agencies are using industry-recognized credentials, employability skills training and assistive technology to empower a workforce to do in-demand jobs for their clients.”
“Closing the skills gap for technician and trades jobs in industry sectors like manufacturing and health care requires increased focus and commitment from every one of the programs and partners that comprise Virginia’s workforce system,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “This new grant will help ensure that Virginians with disabilities have an equal opportunity to access training and industry certifications that will afford them access to good paying jobs in those key industry sectors that have a high demand for skilled workers.”
“I’m pleased that this grant will allow us to broaden and strengthen the opportunities for Virginians with disabilities to fully participate in the workforce, which is one way that people fully participate in communities and in society,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel. “When people feel fully connected to their community, it’s good for their mental wellbeing and for society as a whole.”
The effort will identify and address needed enhancements to the Commonwealth’s existing career pathways programs to ensure access for individuals with disabilities, initially in south central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, where the project will partner with the regional Workforce Investment Boards. The DARS Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville will work with the Virginia Manufacturing Association to develop a one-week training program. The Blue Ridge Community College is also expected to partner in the project.
“Expanding career pathways for individuals with disabilities is a strong start to providing opportunities for them to compete in the new Virginia economy for full-time, competitively-waged jobs and more fully integrate into our Commonwealth’s workforce,” said DARS Commissioner Jim Rothrock.
“This grant will provide opportunities to strengthen the alignment of job training for individuals with disabilities with the needs of Virginia’s manufacturers and businesses,” said DBVI Commissioner Raymond Hopkins. “Assistive technology is creating new opportunities for many of these individuals, allowing them to participate in the workforce and forge career pathways in these growing sectors of the Commonwealth’s economy.”
The federal grant, awarded to only three other states, totals $4,314,015, or 89 percent of the overall project budget. The Commonwealth and other project partners will contribute a minimum of $506,891, or 11 percent of the total projected five-year budget.