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Mechatronics Cohort2 800pxThe SoVA Center of Manufacturing Excellence recently welcomed its second group of eight students into the industrial maintenance/mechatronics program.

The hands on training at Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) prepares students for a career in many industries including mechanical, electrical, computer software/control engineering (PLCs) to design and manufacture products. Students will come away from the training ready to earn valuable industry credentials such as Siemens Level 1 Certification. Students can then go on to earn Siemens level 2 certification, and SVHEC is working with Siemens to create the only North American location for Siemens level 3 training and certification.

The training takes place over 26 weeks, and students who complete the training are certified as “smart operators” which will allow them to work in any industry with any equipment. In fact, recent graduates have found careers as machine operators, technicians and apprentice electricians.

Dr. Betty Adams, executive director of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, said, “Thanks to the TRRC’s investment in SoVA CME, the SVHEC is positioned to offer Southside workers the training necessary to succeed in automated smart factory environments. The 2016 State of the Commonwealth Report predicts that almost 74 percent of Virginia’s production occupations – which includes Southern Virginia’s largest labor market sector, manufacturing – may be at risk to automation. The most vulnerable jobs involve repetitive, routine tasks that require little reasoning, judgment or creative abilities. These jobs are being replaced by equipment designed to function as complex systems, now often referred to as mechatronic systems.

Welding Cohort 6 web

One of the first things you notice about Welding@SVHEC training participant Eric Ford is his bright smile and laid back demeanor. He can often be seen sharing a laugh or helpful word with his classmates as he moves about the welding lab with confidence. It isn’t until you get to know Ford that you learn his kidneys failed several years ago, and he’s been a dialysis patient for three years.

Ford attributes his kidney failure to years of uncontrolled high blood pressure. “It was negligence over the years. I had problems with my blood pressure when I was as young as 19,” the now 39 year old states. “I remember when Walmart got the machines to check your blood pressure. I checked mine and it was so high I thought ‘Man this machine is broken,’” he continued.

Before being diagnosed with kidney failure, Ford says he lacked direction and focus. “I didn’t have a career. I ended up making some bad decisions and got into some trouble,” he said.

Ford decided to use his illness as a motivator to change his life. He looked for a career that would be interesting and still allow him to receive dialysis treatment. He chose welding, and the Department of Rehabilitative Services (DARS) helped him find a program that would meet his needs.  He enrolled in the Welding@SVHEC program, and began classes in February 2016.


January 2017 ITA Graduation Ceremony>
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The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) celebrated the newest members of the region’s information technology (IT) workforce with a completion ceremony for the participants in the IT Academy’s third cohort.

Nineteen individuals were recognized for completing the ITA’s Computer and Server Foundations curriculum, and for earning industry recognized CompTIA certifications in A+ and Server+. The completers earned a total of 21 credentials.

“Without a skilled workforce ready to step into high demand jobs like IT, our region will be unable to sustain existing industry or attract new ones,” said Dr. Betty Adams, SVHEC Executive Director. “With credentials hand-picked by the region’s IT employers, IT Academy completers are well-positioned to secure available jobs and bring immediate value to Southern Virginia employers,” she continued.

The ceremony’s guest speaker was Jason Kirkhart, founder and CEO of Beetoobi IT Solutions, an IT firm based in Halifax County. In sharing insights about Southern Virginia’s need for an IT workforce, he pointed out “pioneer” private sector companies like GCR Company and, and investments by Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative and the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority for setting the stage for a boom in IT workers in the region. “All those efforts are showing signs of paying off. In recent years this region has become the newest home to a large call center, a data center and an operations center for Homeland Security, just to name a few.”
Kirkhart also provided words of advice to the completers saying, “Spend time every day becoming better problem solvers. Break down problems with intention, develop a process for it and constantly refine it. Those skills will remain invaluable no matter where you go.”

IT Academy trainer and program coordinator Kelly Shotwell beamed with pride as program completers were called up to receive their credentials. “This class was determined, studious, and success-oriented. I believe they have a great deal to offer in the workplace, and I wish them every success,” she said.

ITA completer Matthew Rulli said, “I chose the IT Academy to open doors and jump-start a new career. I now have a new set of tools to work with.” Classmate Reid Roller echoed Rulli’s statements and added “Learning to work through problems and seeing how others troubleshoot issues were great aspects of the class for me.”

For Juanita Carden, the program’s job placement assistance was the most valuable. “After all the studying and hard work to earn the certifications, the job fair was undoubtedly the most valuable aspect of the program because it put us in the same room with employers ready to fill IT positions,” she said. “The IT Academy was literally an answer to a prayer and step of faith. I had been looking for a CompTIA specific course for a while and I moved back home to Halifax County just in time to sign up for the course,” Carden continued.

The SVHEC IT Academy offers short-term, non-credit training leading to CompTIA credentials in A+ and Server+. ITA training pairs classroom instruction with hands-on activities in a fully equipped repair center and data center. Training participants complete the entire core curriculum within four months. For more information about powering on your IT career visit, call 434-572-5660, or email

mechatronicsManufacture your future in Industrial Maintenance/Mechatronics through the SoVA Center of Manufacturing Excellence (SoVA CME). Beginning January 17th, hands-on training in industrial maintenance/mechatronics will be offered at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, VA. The six-month training leads to several industry recognized certifications, including Siemens Level 1 Certification.

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.

Individuals are encouraged to attend an upcoming information session to learn more. Information sessions will be held at the SVHEC-Innovation Center on:

    Tuesday, December 13th:  5:00 PM
    Thursday, December 15th:  5:00 PM
    Tuesday, January 10th:  10:00 AM
    Thursday, January 12th:  10:00 AM

Individuals who enroll in the January 2017 Industrial Maintenance/Mechatronics cohort will be introduced to electrical systems, pneumatics, programmable logic controls (PLCs), mechanical systems and more. Training uses the Siemens systems-based approach, but is not focused on Siemens equipment or products. Individuals who successfully complete SoVA CME’s Industrial Maintenance/Mechatronics Level 1 program are prepared to identify and correct malfunctions in manufacturing equipment as well as effectively communicate with team members.