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troycomerTroy Comer, SoVA Center of Manufacturing Excellence (SoVA CME) Welding Program Leader, has earned the internationally recognized Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) credential through the American Welding Society (AWS). Comer previously earned the AWS Certified Welding Educator credential in 2016.

“Obtaining the CWI credential is a real credit to Troy. The certification exam is quite challenging, and more fail than pass,” said David Kenealy, SoVA CME Director of Programming. “The CWI is a predominant credential that will expand our ability to do meaningful work in welding and workforce training as we move forward,” Kenealy continued.

As an AWS certified welding inspector, Comer can now test and certify welders and construction-related welding projects. According to the AWS website “CWIs are responsible to the public for the quality of the things they help produce. Bridges, elevators, buildings, vehicles, it’s the CWI’s job to ensure that these things are assembled correctly and okay for public use.”

To obtain the CWI credential, Comer underwent a rigorous certification process including a vision test, attending an intensive weeklong seminar in Atlanta, Georgia, and completing a difficult three-part, six-hour assessment. As a testament to Comer’s welding experience and abilities, he passed all parts of the assessment on the first try.

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 Pure.net, 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 www.svhec.org/ita, call 434-572-5660, or email kellyshotwell@svhec.org.