DOL Awards $250,000 Development Grant to Virginia's Southside Region

The U.S. Department of Labor on May 1 announced a $250,000 Regional Innovation Grant to help Virginia's Southside region develop strategies to transition away from an economy based on manufacturing and agricultural sectors into new high-growth, high-wage industries.

"This region historically has been dependent on the manufacturing and agricultural industries," said Brent R. Orrell, acting assistant secretary for Employment and Training. "Through the $250,000 awarded [May 1], local leaders will develop strategies to help prepare area workers for industries such as biotechnology and health care that are experiencing rapid and sustained growth."

The grant, awarded to the Virginia Employment Commission, will support efforts to identify career pathways that improve workforce readiness and reduce skills gaps to prepare workers for new and emerging industries. Strategies for the grant project announced today will focus on increasing workers' skill levels by leveraging existing education programs at three of the region's community colleges. Participants will receive career and technical education that result in two- and four-year degrees, industry certifications, and/or apprenticeship credentials.

There also will be cross-border collaboration with the nearby North Carolina Upper Piedmont Triad region, which won Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) funding in 2006. Southside Virginia leaders will partner with their North Carolina counterparts to align economic and talent development strategies and build on efforts already underway.

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor's discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state's ability to meet specific guidelines. For more information, visit www.doleta.gov/NEG.

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