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STEM education in Southern Virginia recently got a boost with the full-day Coders Experience event held at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) in South Boston, Va. More than 950 middle-school girls registered to participate in 10 free events across Virginia in October sponsored by Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Karen Jackson, and powered by Capital One. At each event, girls in grades 6, 7, and 8 were introduced to problem-solving, teamwork and basic principles of software development. After instruction, teams of students used MIT App Inventor to create their own mobile application.
Nearly 110 middle school girls attended the Coders Experience at SVHEC on October 21, making it the largest of the 10 events. More than 500 volunteers from Capital One participated across Virginia serving as instructors and mentors for participants at the Coders Experience.
“Coders Experience is an extension of our C1 Coders program which partners with schools and community leaders to foster an interest in software engineering in middle school girls and boys,” said Pallavi Bokkisam, Senior Manager in Software Engineering at Capital One and South Boston Site Lead for Coders Experience. “Capital One supports this work through our Future Edge initiative which is providing $150 million in community grants over five years to prepare more people to succeed in a digitally-driven economy.”
“We’re grateful to Capital One for bringing this high quality, hands-on Coders Experience to students in Southern Virginia. Information technology is a growing field in this region, and software engineering is a great option for students to consider,” said Amy Cole, SVHEC Director of Student and Partner Advancement. “Opportunities like this are invaluable because they expose students to possibilities that they may not have known existed. Most students already love computers, cellphones, and living on-line, and we hope the ones who participated in the Coders Experience will now think about how to develop software content as well as use it,” she continued.
At the end of the day, teams presented their apps to a panel of judges. The judges were Amy Cole, Robin Mardre-Garrett, (SVHEC HR and Operations Manager) and Linda Green, (Executive Director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance). The top three teams and their parents received a free trip to the Women in Technology Experience in Richmond on November 15th. Coders Experience participants received a gift bag with a tablet and other gifts.
“The feedback from the Coders Experience has been amazing. Several parents have commented that their daughters were so excited they went home and started designing their next app. Maybe the next million-dollar app will be developed by a young woman who got her start at the Coders Experience,” Cole said.
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.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently awarded the Southern Virginia Higher Education Foundation (SVHEF) a Community Facilities grant of $25,000 to upgrade equipment in the IT Academy. The IT Academy (ITA) is a workforce training program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) offering short-term, hands-on training leading to CompTIA credentials in A+ and Server+.
“Upgrading the infrastructure in the SVHEC’s IT Academy is necessary to ensure that the training being provided in that space is both cutting-edge and relevant to the needs of potential employers in the region. We’re grateful for the continued support of the USDA Office for Rural Development and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Foundation,” said Dr. Betty Adams, SVHEC Executive Director.
USDA grant funds will be used to upgrade the IT Academy’s datacenter to include fiber optic cabling, and the training program’s server technologies. The planned upgrades are in response to employer requests for trainees to have fiber optic cabling training as data centers have increasingly moved away from copper connections to end-to-end fiber connections. Employers also requested trainees have expanded training in new server technologies to include blade servers housed in a blade enclosure providing shared power, cooling, networking, and management infrastructure.
“The IT Academy is yet another example of the commitment of our Foundation to encourage economic development in the Southern Virginia region. Completers of the IT Academy are securing stable, well-paying jobs right here at home. We are very proud of this accomplishment. We are also grateful to the USDA Office for Rural Development for their ongoing support of our Foundation and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center,” said Tommy Nelson, SVHEF Executive Director
For more information about the SVHEC’s IT Academy visit www.svhec.org/ita, call 434-572-5660, or email email@example.com.
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.
The SVHEC's IT Academy (ITA) is now recruiting for classes beginning January 8, 2018. The enrollment period opens on October 12th and ends on December 5th.
The IT Academy offers short-term, hands-on training leading to CompTIA credentials in A+ and Server+. Classroom instruction and online study tools are paired with hands-on activities in a fully equipped repair center and data center that simulates the real world working environment. ITA participants complete the entire core curriculum within four months, and have the training and skills necessary to start, or advance, their career as an IT technician.
“I chose the IT Academy because the content was right, the schedule was right, and the timing was right to take a huge step towards earning highly recognized industry certifications," said Tina Morgan, ITA cohort 4 completer.
A number of program completers have gone on to work at the datacenters in Clarksville and Boydton, as well as regional school systems and healthcare systems. Individuals who were already employed in an IT career were able to obtain the credentials they needed to advance their careers.
To join Southern Virginia's growing IT workforce, attend an upcoming information session:
- Thursday, October 12th at 5:30pm
- Friday, October 13th at 11:00am
- Thursday, October 19th at 5:30pm
- Thursday, October 26th at 5:30pm
Information sessions will cover valuable information including the ITA application process, skills learned during training, and available financial assistance. Information sessions are open to the public, but registration is requested. To register for an information session or to learn more about the IT Academy contact Kelly Shotwell, IT Academy program coordinator and trainer, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 434-572-5660, and toll free 1-800-283-0098 ext 5660.
Welding Basics for the At Home Welder Course Back By Popular Demand
Back by popular demand, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s (SVHEC) “Welding Basics for the At Home Welder” will be offered this October. This six-week course provides instruction on safety and basic welding processes including MIG, stick, and flux core welding for the do-it-yourselfer.
“We wanted to offer a non-credential, hands-on training class to individuals in the community who wanted to learn a little bit more about welding for their personal use,” said Scarlett Brandon, program/marketing coordinator for the SoVA Center of Manufacturing Excellence. “We offered the first six-week training class this spring, and it was a great fit for everyone,” she continued.
Developed with the recreational welder in mind, no previous welding experience is needed to enroll in the “At Home Welder” course. Classes will meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9:00am-1:00pm and will be taught by certified Welding@SVHEC instructors. Each participant will have an opportunity to complete a project in class or to bring in a personal project from home.
One of the first individuals to enroll in the first “At Home Welder” course was Denise Hudson, owner of Hudson Farms. “This is a great adult learning program that has provided me with a working foundation on how to safely and productively weld. I loved the hands-on instruction which was perfect for adult learners like me,” she said.
“Welding Basics for the At Home Welder” begins Tuesday, October 24th. Registration is open, and seats are limited.
For more information, or to sign-up for “Welding Basics for the At-Home Welder,” contact Scarlett Brandon at 434-572-5473 or email@example.com.