Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel, presents a ceremonial check to the SWCC Educational Foundation for workforce development and training to Susan Lowe, SWCC Educational Foundation Director; and Dr. Mark Estepp, SWCC president.

Lebanon, VA (November 20, 2017) — The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) closed last Wednesday on an up to $500,000 grant to the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation to be used for workforce development and training at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC).

The funds will be used to provide scholarships to students in emerging workforce fields such as information technology, unmanned aerial systems, agriculture, and advanced manufacturing.  The students must be residents of the seven-county, one-city coalfield region served by VCEDA.  VCEDA was established to help enhance and diversify the economy of this region, which includes the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell and Wise and the City of Norton.

The grant also makes funding available to administer National Career Readiness Certification testing to students still in high school or at SWCC who are interested in earning a trade or IT certification to immediately transfer to the workforce upon graduation and completion of the testing.

“VCEDA is pleased to provide the grant funding for this program which will benefit the citizens in our region and provide proof of their career readiness,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. “Being able to demonstrate our workforce capabilities to various companies considering locations in our region is an important step in our efforts to further diversify our economic base.”

“We are very pleased to receive grant funding from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority for this program,” said Dr. Mark Estepp, president of SWCC. “It has been said that ‘higher education is the engine of economic development.’ Because of VCEDA’s funding of  higher education programs in this region, that engine will in turn help to power the ability of SWCC to train and retrain our region’s citizens for high-paying, high-demand careers.”

SWCC officials noted career readiness testing could be administered through the career-technology centers VCEDA-region counties already have established at the high school level. This would enable students to complete the requirements for their high school diploma and simultaneously to be recognized as career-ready and workforce credentialed through the national testing program.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and 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 Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education and emerging technologies. 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