On May 24th, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) held its annual Workforce Training Completion Ceremony. The celebration recognized 75 students who successfully completed a hands-on training program in HVAC, Information Technology, and Welding, and who earned a combined 145 industry recognized credentials.

The pride and joy of gathered family and friends was palpable as booming applause and impromptu shouts of “Proud of you” and “Good Job” filled the room. For many, the feeling of accomplishment at successfully completing a training program is coupled with knowing their new skills and certifications will change the trajectory of their life.

“The sense of pride and accomplishment I have felt after completing the HVAC@SVHEC program has been life changing,” said HVAC completer Christian McKay. “I have recently been hired by Roger’s Heating and Cooling, and as a company they are eager to continue and advance my education in the field. Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be on such an upward trajectory if I had not enrolled in the HVAC program.”

During the ceremony SVHEC also celebrated training over 100 individuals through its customized training efforts. This training is sponsored by an employer and is customized to meet the specific needs of industry.

SVHEC Executive Director Dr. Betty Adams

“You may have a neighbor, a friend, or someone you go to church with…and guess what—they’re unsung heroes in our community because they have taken the time to complete training while they were employed,” said Sandi Satterfield, SVHEC Director of Workforce Training Programs.

The completion ceremony’s keynote address was delivered by SVHEC Executive Director, Dr. Betty Adams. This past spring, Adams announced plans to retire within the next year, making this ceremony her last as agency head. “The last 15-plus years I’ve had the privilege of serving as the executive director at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, and I’ve presided over every one of our completion ceremonies but never as keynote speaker. This is really special,” she said. SVHEC began offering hands-on workforce training programs under Adams’ leadership making the evening a full circle moment for her time as executive director.

During her remarks, Adams shared what she called “the story behind her resume” and recounted several setbacks she faced during her career. One of her earliest challenges came after graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree with honors, but not finding a job because of an economic recession. With no other options, Adams was forced to return to a job she’d held at a fast-food restaurant. Adams recalled that the experience at the time was a “bitter pill,” but the fast-food position led her to management training school and eventually higher education and a flourishing career with the North Carolina Community College System.  

“You will hit road bumps and have challenges—that is the nature of life. In my experience I’ve learned that there are opportunities wrapped in those challenges so I encourage you to look for the good and when you can’t find the good do good anyway. Do your best, try hard, don’t ever give up.”

Adams concluded her keynote address by officially launching the SVHEC’s new Workforce Trainee Referral Program. Individuals who have successfully completed an adult SVHEC training program may now refer others to one of the Center’s programs. The referring individual may receive a $25 gift certificate for enrollments that come from their referral.

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 in HVAC, IT, and Welding. For more information visit www.svhec.org, email , or call 434-572-5568.