Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Welding a Bright Future, Free of Debt

Josh Flower (Blue Ridge Community College)

Josh Flower’s life took an unexpected turn his sophomore year at Virginia Tech when he realized his current course of study to become a neurosurgeon, with decades of schooling and years of student debt ahead of him, was not the path he wanted to take. Interested in switching to engineering, Flowers decided to pursue basic math and sciences courses at his local community college to save money.

“I had to start over which wasn’t just a financial burden, but a mental burden too. My mom works at Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) and told me about the Workforce Credential Grant. She explained that, if I completed the course and obtained a welding credential that I would only have to pay one-third of the course cost. The opportunity to weld, and the low cost, both peaked my interest, so I decided to check it out,” said Flower.

Flower took his first welding class this past fall which he describes as, “One heck of an opportunity. I loved everything about this class, and the instructors were incredible. There is so much to learn within welding, and these classes cater to all learning levels and backgrounds.”

Today, Flower takes great pride in his welding, striving to ensure each bead of metal comes out perfectly. He takes full advantage of the knowledgeable instructors and resources.

“BRCC’s welding classes allow individuals to move at different paces which helps my personality because I can move at an accelerated pace. Sometimes I ask for extra assignments so I can obtain new skills.”

Flower has already achieved credentials in Welding & Manufacturing Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW), Welding & Manufacturing Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) and NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) in Measurement, Materials, and Safety, all covered by the Workforce Credential Grant. He is currently working on taking a Gas Tungsten Arc Welding course covered by the Workforce Credential Grant and is interested in trying machining classes next.

Flower is “beyond excited” about his new job at Riddleberger Brothers as a Welding Helper, which will allow him to quit his job at a fast food restaurant. His ultimate goal is to weld for NASA, working among physicists and astronomers.

Flower says, “While it would be cool to have a bachelor’s degree, if I can make the same amount of money but be happy with what I am doing, why would I complain? I love the heck out of welding and would be pretty satisfied with keeping my life on this course. And it helps me avoid the pitfalls of student debt.”

For more information about the Workforce Credential Grant, click here.

From Credential to Career in the Blink of an Eye

Kouri Tweedy (Central Virginia Community College) 

Going from two part-time jobs with no career path to three credentials and a full-time job in the healthcare field in months is an impressive feat. Meet Kouri Tweedy, a 24-year-old student at Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) who turned her life around thanks to the Virginia Community College System’s Workforce Credential Grant (WCG).

Tweedy admits school was not her favorite and employment unstable, but she had a desire to start on a career path. She first heard about the WCG program at her local Virginia Employment Commission Office and decided to apply.

Under WCG, Tweedy was able to take classes at CVCC over a four-month period, only paying one-third of the tuition rate. When it was all said and done, Kouri earned the following certifications: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, EKG Technician, and Phlebotomy Technician by the American Medical Certification Association – for a total bill of $71.00.

“For the money and time spent, you can’t beat coming out with three certifications and walking into a full-time job,” said Tweedy. “It was a lot of work in a small period of time but totally worth it. I am finishing my internship and have a job, thanks to a teacher recommendation.”

Tweedy’s new career will provide her with a higher salary than her two previous part-time jobs. She will be using her newly earned certifications as a Certified Medical Assistant, working with patients, conducting lab work, providing emergency medical services, and assisting doctors. “I’m sure the medical field is where I want to continue,” said Tweedy. “I want to keep taking classes and hopefully one day become a nurse practitioner. The WCG was my gateway to that path. It really opened my eyes to realize how important education is and showed me that if you push through it, you will go places, both personally and financially.

Tweedy credits the teachers at CVCC for helping change her mind about school.

“The teachers cared that each one of us passed the certification exams. One of my teachers had more than 25 years of experience in the medical field. She was very hands-on,” said Tweedy.

Tweedy highly recommends taking advantage of the WCG program to anyone looking for a good career. She still can’t believe this opportunity came her way.

For more information about the Workforce Credential Grant, click here.'

Virginia's Community Colleges

Created more than 50 years ago, the VCCS is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than 270,000 students a year in credit and workforce courses.

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