Participants in the SVHEC's IT Academy now have an opportunity to train on datacenter equipment thanks to a donation from Microsoft Corporation.
(November 2017) Donna Conde moved from New Jersey to Halifax County in 2014 after experiencing some personal issues. "I immediately started my search for employment since I had always worked since the age of 10." A quick job didn't come to her, and nearly 18 months later she was still unable to find work. Conde turned to social services for assistance for her and her school-aged daughter. It was there she overhead a gentleman talking about the IT Academy (ITA) at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC). The conversation sparked her interest because she’d always loved computers and had worked in IT for 20 years in New Jersey learning through on-the-job training. " With no luck finding a job in Virginia I knew I needed more education, and the IT Academy seemed like a perfect fit for me. When I left social services, I went right to the SVHEC and spoke with Kelly Shotwell [ITA program coordinator]."
After speaking with Shotwell and learning more about the ITA program, Conde was excited and saw an opportunity to turn her situation around. However, the program's costs, $2,700, threatened to send her back to square one. "I hadn't been working in years, and was depending on family for support. The cost was a major issue," Conde said.
The IT Academy, and other SVHEC workforce training programs, are not eligible for federal financial aid because they lead to an industry recognized credential and not a college degree. Fortunately for Conde, the General Assembly passed the Workforce Credential Grant Program (CGP) in 2016, providing financial assistance for individuals pursuing in-demand, hands-on workforce training programs like mechatronics, welding, and the IT Academy. For approved individuals, CGP funds provide up to two-thirds of the cost of training making training and certifications more accessible than ever before.
"I applied for the CGP Program funding and was ecstatic when I received help," said Conde. She enrolled in the IT Academy, and began classes in August 2016.
On September 29th, regional leaders from industry, workforce development, and education attended Make It…in SoVA where the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) launched its newest workforce training partnership with Siemens Technik Akadmie in Berlin, Germany.
“We’re excited to officially launch our partnership with Siemens Technik Akademie. This partnership, and the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Program, will provide a tremendous asset and resource for industries in Southern Virginia,” said Dr. Betty Adams, SVHEC Executive Director.
The Make It…in SoVa launch event highlighted the mechatronics training program, and featured special guest speakers from Berlin, Germany and Carson City, Nevada. Mechatronics combines mechanical, electrical, computer, and software and control engineering to design and manufacture products. Individuals trained in mechatronics are prepared for many successful careers including machine operator, industrial maintenance technician, and electrician.
Lauren von Steuben, Product Manager for Digital Products Division at Siemens AG in Berlin, Germany, and oversees the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Program (SMSCP) in 16 countries. She provided an overview of the SMSCP program which provides an internationally recognized certification for individuals trained in mechatronics.
“With the SMSCP, students are able to earn a global certification without leaving Virginia. This is the same certification as students in Canada, Germany, and India,” von Steuben said. “Everything is hands on with 30% theory and 70% practice. The core of the program is hands-on practice and troubleshooting working with real mechatronic systems,” she continued. She described individuals who obtain the Siemens mechatronic certification as being ready to “hit the ground running,” when hired by industry.
According to von Steuben, the SMSCP is vendor neutral and not dependent on Siemens, or any particular, equipment, “SMSCP is a mechatronic skills certification, not a Siemens product certification,” she said.