BIG STONE GAP, VA – MAY 1, 2024 – A  new fiber optic installation program and a new heavy equipment operator II program to be offered at Mountain Empire Community College will benefit from an up to $186,091.29 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA).

The funds, which come from VCEDA’s Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund will be used for workforce development and training costs and expenses of equipment, supplies and tuition for the two programs.

“VCEDA is pleased to provide these workforce development funds to the MECC Foundation which will benefit VCEDA region residents, offering them another avenue to develop and refine their work skills in the areas of fiber optic installation and heavy equipment operation,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher.

Through the years, VCEDA has provided workforce development and training funding assistance many times to the MECC Foundation with hundreds of students benefiting from this funding and training.  In total, more than $1.2 million in grants have been approved by VCEDA to the MECC Foundation since 2018.  VCEDA has also similarly assisted the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation.

MECC noted in its application for funding that the two new programs will meet what it sees as a growing demand for skilled workers in both fields and further support the training needs of multiple employers already operating in the region.

Students completing the Fiber Optic Installation program will earn a Certified Network Cable Installer nationally recognized credential or a similar certification.

Graduates of the heavy equipment operator II program will earn credentials including:  NCCER Core, NCCER Equipment Operator Level I and HEO Level II, and VDOT Work Zone Flagger certification.  MECC estimates in the next two years, 40 students may be trained through the fiber optic installation program and 48 students through the heavy equipment operator II program.

“MECC is pleased to work with Scott County Telephone Cooperative to develop fiber optic installation training in our region; and to meet the needs of additional employers in the region as well as we develop our Heavy Equipment Operator II program,” said MECC President, Dr. Kristen Westover. “We appreciate the continued support of VCEDA in assisting MECC to meet Southwest Virginia’s workforce development needs today and in the future.”

 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