SVHEC Celebrates Workforce Training Completers

Governor’s Chief Workforce Policy Advisory Serves as Guest Speaker

Workforce Training Completion Ceremony
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The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) recently celebrated 47 trainees who successfully completed its workforce training programs. Held in the banquet hall of the Prizery, family, friends, and supporters gathered to recognize program completers in Mechatronics, IT Academy, Welding@SVHEC, and Work Ready Foundations.

Sara Dunnigan, Executive Director of the Virginia Board of Workforce Development and Governor McAuliffe’s Chief Workforce Policy Advisor, served as the ceremony’s guest speaker. “Finishing something you’ve set out to do is worth celebrating in life,” she said. Dunnigan shared her experiences of finding her way in the workforce, and encouraged program completers to keep moving forward. “Constantly ask yourself what’s next,” she said.

Dunnigan has been instrumental in implementing the Commonwealth’s Workforce Credential Grant Program which pays up to two-thirds of the cost of non-credit, credential based programming like the SVHEC’s Workforce Training Programs. “It’s exciting to see the trainee’s success and to know the Workforce Credential Grant contributed to that,” Dunnigan stated.

Nearly 80% of the individuals recognized during the completion ceremony received financial assistance through the Credential Grant Program. SVHEC officials have described the CGP program as a “gamechanger” for their workforce training efforts.

“Successful workforce development programs like those offered at SVHEC not only change the lives of students, but these initiatives are also preparing the region’s workforce for high-demand jobs in the New Virginia Economy, and positioning Southside Virginia as an economic development destination,” said Nathalie Molliet-Ribet, the Commonwealth’s Deputy Secretary for Education, who was in attendance at Thursday’s ceremony.

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SVHEC Announces Inaugural Make it in SoVA Employer Luncheon

Make It In SoVA FlyerAdvanced manufacturing employers in Southern Virginia are invited to attend the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s (SVHEC) first Make it in SoVA luncheon on Friday, September 29th at 11:00am.

Make it in SoVA will focus on systems-based training and the Siemens Mechatronics Systems Certification Program (SMSCP). Attendees will hear from special guests Lauren von Steuben, Siemens Digital AG Factory Division in Berlin, Germany, and Dr. Emily Howarth, Professor of Applied Industrial Technology at Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nevada. Von Steuben and Howarth have successfully implemented SMSCP training in western Nevada to support Nevada’s advanced manufacturing and distribution industries. SVHEC leaders are hopeful their mechatronics program can do the same for Southern Virginia.

“As automation plays an increasingly larger role in advanced manufacturing, the need for skilled “smart operators and technicians” is more important than ever,” said Dr. Betty Adams, SVHEC Executive Director. “The research and data clearly show that training technicians to think systematically is key to faster troubleshooting and repairs. For employers, this equates to reduced down-time and decreased loss of productivity,” she continued.

Adams went on to emphasize that the Siemens Mechatronics Systems Certification Program is not a Siemens-only training and will not result in technicians who can only work on Siemens equipment. “Individuals completing Siemens Mechatronics training have the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to work for employers in many different industry sectors,” Adams stated.

Plant managers, CEOs, technical managers and human resource managers are all encouraged to attend the Make it in SoVA event. Lunch will be provided, but pre-registration at is required.

For more information or to register by phone, contact Jermaine Gooden at 434-572-5553 or email

SVHEC Hosts Visit with Federal Health Resources & Services Administration

South Boston, VA—The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center recently hosted a site visit with Lorener Brayboy, LCSW and Kim Evans, JD, MHS with the federal Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), and Keisha Smith, executive director of the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority (VHWDA). HRSA is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and funds the SVHEC’s Area Health Education Center (SVHEC-AHEC). SVHEC-AHEC serves a large region of 15 counties and 3 cities that stretches to Buckingham County in the north and Emporia in the east.hrsa birthingmanikin

During the visit, Brayboy, Evans, and Smith met with members of the SVHEC Leadership team and SVHEC-AHEC staff to learn more about the SVHEC and its successful AHEC program. Dr. Betty Adams, SVHEC executive director, provided an overview of the Center, its history, and programs, and expressed her thanks to the HRSA and VHWDA representatives for their support of the SVHEC-AHEC.

Dr. Nettie Simon Owens, SVHEC Chief Economic Advancement Officer, provided a brief presentation on the regional nursing shortage that led to the development of the Center of Nursing Excellence in 2007. Following presentations, Brayboy, Evans, and Smith were given tours of the Center of Nursing Excellence’s Simulation Lab and the SVHEC’s Innovation Center. The visit concluded with a roundtable discussion with representatives from Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, Southside Virginia Community College, and SVHEC Executive Leadership.

”Our HRSA project officers have seen reports documenting the successful health professions outreach and educational support initiatives at SVHEC,” said Ann Switzer, associate director of the Center of Nursing Excellence. “This visit allowed us to demonstrate the SVHEC commitment to the health professions workforce with a hands-on tour of our CNE clinical training facilities, and turnout of the entire SVHEC leadership team to discuss our commitment to the AHEC mission,” she continued.  

About the SVHEC-AHEC Program

The Virginia AHEC Program is a federally funded initiative that aims to: (1) educate and train students to become culturally competent primary care health professionals who will provide healthcare in underserved areas and to health disparity populations; (2) increase the number and variety of primary care health professionals who provide care to underserved populations in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and other medically underserved areas; and (3) recruit into health careers individuals from underrepresented minority populations or from disadvantaged or rural backgrounds. AHEC goals are aligned with the SVHEC’s mission to advance Southern Virginia’s economic potential through education, innovation, and collaboration.

Governor's Chief Workforce Policy Advisor to Speak at Workforce Training Completion Ceremony

sara dunniganOn August 10th Sara Dunnigan, Executive Director of the Virginia Board of Workforce Development and Governor McAuliffe’s Chief Workforce Policy Advisor, will be the  guest speaker for the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s (SVHEC) workforce training completion ceremony. The ceremony will recognize individuals who have successfully completed one of four training programs: information technology through the IT Academy, Mechatronics, Welding@SVHEC, or Work Ready Foundations.

“It is an honor to have Sara Dunnigan participate in our completion ceremony. Her leadership in rolling out the Commonwealth’s Workforce Credential Grant Program (CGP) has had a direct impact on many of the completers who will be recognized,” said Dr. Betty Adams, SVHEC executive director.

Dunnigan has been instrumental in implementing the Credential Grant Program which pays up to two-thirds of the cost of non-credit, credential based programming like the SVHEC’s Workforce Training Programs. Implemented by the General Assembly in 2016, CGP funding provides financial assistance to allow individuals to receive training in a high demand field, and earn an industry-based certification or state licensure.

Nearly 80% of the individuals to be honored at the SVHEC Workforce Training completion ceremony were supported in their training through the Credential Grant Program. “Without the benefit of the CGP, these programs would have been unaffordable and, therefore, out of reach for these individuals. Instead of receiving credentials and securing new jobs these many of these completers would remain stuck in low-, no-, or under-employment situations,” Adams stated.

The SVHEC’s Workforce Training Completion Ceremony will be held on August 10th at 2:00pm at The Prizery (700 Bruce Street, South Boston, VA). RSVPs are requested to 

More information: SVHEC Workforce Training Programs

Students Explore STEM During Summer Camp

Americorps Explore STEM Camp

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The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) recently hosted a one-week Explore STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Camp for Halifax County students. SVHEC Americorps Member Vashunda Richardson developed the camp to increase awareness and interest in STEM through engaging, hands-on activities. During the week students used the SVHEC’s welding simulator to virtually weld, built solar ovens to make s’mores, and used simple household products to make slime.

“A key feature of the Explore STEM Camp was using hands-on projects to make science, technology, math and engineering come alive for students. We were able to show them the concepts they hear and read about have very practical uses, and can be a lot of fun,” said Hope Harris-Gayles, SVHEC Associate Director of Communications & Outreach, and site coordinator for Americorps at the SVHEC.   

One of Explore STEM camp highlights was an introduction to coding and robotics taught by Dr. Paula Leach, Director of Longwood University’s Institute for Teaching Through Technology and Innovative Practices. Using littleBits Robotics, Dr. Leach introduced students to the concept of coding and gave them hands-on experiences with the littleBits so they could build and code interactive games like the Hot Potato of Doom. "One of the great things about using a tool such as littleBits is that students get to actually design, build, and code their own project and quickly see the results of their efforts," Dr. Leach said.

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Adult Learners Complete Welding Basics Course


At Home Welding Class 2017

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Ten individuals recently completed the SVHEC’s first Welding Basics for the At Home Welder course. This hands-on, project-based class was designed with the home or farm owner in mind.

 “We wanted to offer a non-credential, hands-on training class to individuals in the community who wanted to learn a little bit more about welding, for their own personal use,  without enrolling in a year-long training program.  This six week training class was a great fit for everyone,” said Scarlett Brandon, program/marketing coordinator for the SoVA Center of Manufacturing Excellence.

The course covered essential welding basics including safety, torch cutting, MIG, Stick and Flux Core welding. Each participant had an opportunity to design a personal project they carried home at the end of the course. “What a wonderful opportunity this class has afforded me and the rest of the participants,” said participant Denise Hudson. “This is a great adult learning program that has provided me with a working foundation on how to safely and productively weld. I loved the hands-on instruction which was perfect for adult learners like me,” she said.

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