BIG STONE GAP, VA (AUGUST 5, 2021) — An up to $100,000 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) to the Mountain Empire Community College Foundation was recently approved by the VCEDA board and will be used by the college for workforce development and training.

Specifically, the college plans to use the funding for scholarship, training instructional costs, retraining costs and customized workforce training for area businesses and for assessments, including, but not limited to, costs of administering National Career Readiness Certificate testing for residents of Southwest Virginia’s e-Region.

The nationally recognized certificate can be administered to students in career and technical schools in local high schools to ensure that students complete high school with not only a diploma, but a nationally recognized workforce credential, simultaneously.

Funding for the grant came from the VCEDA Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund which is funded by coal tax credit monies previously allocated to VCEDA.

In 2018, VCEDA approved an up to $500,000 grant to the MECC Foundation to be used for workforce development and training.  Since that time, approximately 442 students have completed 527 certifications and training courses to meet workforce demands in the region, the MECC application to the VCEDA board noted.

Among the employers who have benefitted from the supported training include Sykes/Frontier of Wise County, England Furniture of Lee County and eHealth of Scott County, in addition to others. 

“These employers have created hundreds of jobs in the Southwest Virginia region within the last three years, including long-term, sustainable employment and a more diversified economy for the coalfield region,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher.  “According to its application, Mountain Empire Community College anticipates training at least 50 more students in 2021.”

“VCEDA has served as a wonderful partner in providing scholarships for students for training and certification needs,” said Dr. Amy Greear, vice president of institutional advancement/executive director of the MECC Foundation. “This grant directly supports students who are entering career fields in Southwest Virginia, benefitting students, employers and the community.”

As in the prior grant, this project is being pursued to proactively stem population loss by helping displaced workers pursue a new, high-paid career option that will allow them to stay in the southwest Virginia community while simultaneously attracting additional talent to the area, the MECC application for funding noted.

The VCEDA board approved a similar up to $100,000 grant for the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation in April.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. or