It hasn’t always been easy; you’ve made some sacrifices. Many of you work while you were going to school and had family responsibilities, but you pushed through and tonight is a night we’re going to celebrate that.”

Those remarks from the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s (SVHEC) executive director, Dr. Betty Adams, kicked off an evening of celebration at the SVHEC’s annual Workforce Training Completion Ceremony.

On June 15th, SVHEC recognized 140 program completers who completed a hands-on training program in HVAC, Information Technology, and Welding. These individuals earned a combined 255 industry-recognized credentials. SVHEC also recognized an additional 45 individuals who completed customized workforce training. This training is sponsored by an employer and is customized to meet the specific needs of industry.

Completing a workforce training program can be lifechanging—a point proven by the completion ceremony’s guest speaker and Microsoft Datacenter Technician, Angelica Alves. While working as an administrative assistant for a high school guidance counseling office, Alves realized that she was helping students grow and advance but she had become stagnant. She decided to do something for herself, and while researching affordable programs for adult learners, found the IT Academy. 

“My brother has always been into IT and he convinced me to ‘just try it.’ I didn’t think I would be good at it—if anything I thought I might blow a computer up. But I decided to give it a try, enjoyed it, and made a career out of it.”

As a career switcher, Alves recognized she needed work experience to increase her chances of finding an IT position. She asked for an internship with the SVHEC’s IT department, though the position didn’t exist and the department had never had an intern before. She was initially told no, but through her persistence, the no eventually turned to yes and she was granted the opportunity.

“The certifications I earned from the IT Academy along with the internship were enough to get me through the door to start my IT career,” she said.

Alves encouraged completers to look for growth and stretch opportunities at every turn.

“Be annoyingly persistent. Nag if you have to. If you don’t see an opportunity or an open door, take a sledge hammer and create the door yourself.” Angelica Alves

Alves recounted some challenges she’s faced in her career, but emphasized that even when life presents you with hardships, it’s still an opportunity for growth. “What you do with those negative experiences is the most important thing. Take those negative thoughts and experiences and use them as fuel. Use them to drive your ambitions to make yourself bigger, better, and stronger. Grow from the negative experiences and remember to give yourself grace.”

Following the guest speaker, Dr. Adams presented an appreciation plaque to HVAC instructors Chris Walton and AnTori Brown as they prepare to leave their teaching positions to spend more time on their growing business, Strategic Heating and Air. Walton has served as lead HVAC instructor since the program launched in 2019, and has played an instrumental role in the program’s success. Brown joined SVHEC as an HVAC instructor and Lab Tech in 2022. As co-owners of Strategic Heating and Air, they have brought a wealth of industry knowledge and experience to the classroom. 

 “Chris has been with us since the ground level of the HVAC program. He served on our advisory committee from concept to implementation. He helped design classes and labs, and worked with other schools to develop the content. He’s donated materials and supplies from his own company. Thanks to his outstanding efforts the HVAC program has a 100% completion rate,” Dr. Adams shared.

The evening ended with program completers receiving their credentials.

Workforce training at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center is short-term, hands-on and leads to industry recognized credentials. Real world projects and employment success skills are embedded into the training programs to help students achieve long-term career success. Enrollment is currently open for upcoming training, including several new offerings, in HVAC, IT, and Welding.