By Brandon Martin

Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) announced plans to add a childcare facility to their campus during a regularly scheduled meeting at the Frith Economic Development Center on Jan. 27.

PHCC President Dr. Angeline Godwin briefed the board on a new community-wide initiative to build an early childhood development center that would provide care to infants and children in need of after-school care. Additionally, the center would double as a classroom for students in the school’s childhood education program.

Godwin said that the addition of the center will help the area tackle a key barrier to workforce development.

“When we ask students what are their barriers….child care, housing, and transportation always make the top three,” Godwin said.

She added that the school is currently testing each of these barriers in sub-groups and each initiative is moving forward with student housing also being a possibility in the near future.

This development comes after years of student feedback, according to Godwin.

By building the child care center, the community also gains the opportunity to increase the number of child care providers and quality of care.

Currently, the school is pursuing accreditation for their early childhood education program.

The Virginia Community College Board granted PHCC the authorization to begin fundraising for the site but stopped short of granting any state appropriated funds.

“This is very exciting but it’s going very fast,” Godwin said. “We know child care is a major barrier for our students. We’ve been polling them for probably 15 years. We need to put up or shut up.”

Godwin also said that the center would be available to the entire community and not just the students at PHCC adding that “we are part of a much bigger project.”

The childcare center was the first of two major announcements at the meeting with the school also announcing plans to take part in Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” initiative, or “G3” program.

G3 will provide financial support to cover tuition, fees, and books for eligible students at the Commonwealth’s two-year public institutions.

Dr. Greg Hodges, vice president of Academic and Student Success Services, said that the G3 initiative will work in conjunction with the college’s SEED program which already provides financial support for select students.

The program will help Virginia address shortfalls for employment in five areas: healthcare, information technology, manufacturing skill trades, early childhood education and public safety.

“Any credential, be it a workforce credential or an academic credential, and preferably stackable into threes…would be funded through G3,” Hodges said.

The program, unlike the SEED, does not have an age or geographic location restriction according to Hodges.

“We do think that (lack of restrictions) is certainly an incentive for many in our population to come get these short-term credentials that can lead to stackable long-term credentials,” Hodges said.

He also added that there will be extra incentives for students that take part in the G3 initiative but the specifics have yet to be determined.

As of right now, the program is only funded for two years due to governmental budget timelines.

“It’s designed to get students into short-term training and get them employed, feeding back into the local economy,” he added.

“This will really take people from under-employment or unemployment to full employment in high-demand fields within a three year period of time,” Godwin said. “This is very, very positive…I think, especially for our community.

In response to the news, Barry Jarrett of Henry County, motioned to have the chairman send a letter to the state affirming the PHCC school board’s support of the initiative. The motion was carried unanimously.

Vice-chairman Janet Copenhaver received unanimous support for a motion to approve five new career studies certificates, three of which align with the G3 initiative.

Cybersecurity and Networking Foundations as well as Advanced Cybersecurity and Networking Foundations, are credentials that the school already has in place but “those courses are about 25 percent different from state-wide alignment,” according to Hodges. Robotics Welding was the third course approved that helped the school align with state-wide standards and it also serves as the third credential to stack onto the school’s current welding program.

“It is meant to be a level three. Often when we think of career studies certificates, those are entry-level programs but this would be stacking on top of the welding certificate and would allow welders to get advanced training on welding which is a huge demand in our community,” Hodges added.

Robotics and Automation Technology was another certificate approved and it is already embedded into the school’s General Engineering Technology associate’s degree. This type of certificate is key to the school’s approach of stacking credentials.

Hodges said that most students enroll in associate degree tracks and students could drop out for a number of reasons. By providing certificates that can stack, the student will still be left with employable credentials.

The final certificate approved is for Substance Abuse Counselor-Assistant.

“Well documented in our community is the need to help folks overcome addictions,” Hodges said. “For the most part, we have had to rely on bachelor degree trained counselors to make that happen.”

With the addition of the Substance Abuse Counselor-Assistant certificate, those already with an associate’s degree can become licensed to do the work of a counselor as an assistant under the supervision of a treating counselor.

In other matters:

*The board received a report on local fund expenditures. Total local funds currently are $2,130,869.63. There was only one project planned from the locality funds, and that project would address the lighting at the Walker Fine Arts Building. The project is expected to cost about $20,000-25,000 from the current locality fund balance of $633,770.98.

The student activity funds currently sits at a deficit of $8,289.62 due to athletic expenses being front-loaded towards the beginning of the year. Funds are expected to balance and leave a small surplus.

The college also budgeted to spend all parking revenues for the year on sidewalk improvements. The improvements are expected to cost around $24,000.

*The board expects to complete the design phase for the MET II Building this upcoming summer with project completion slated for the summer of 2021. This will create space for 36 more welding booths on campus. The school currently has 60 students on the waiting list for the welding program.

*Copenhaver was nominated to take over as chairman until 2022 and Dennis Casey was nominated to serve as vice-chairman to the same term. Actual voting on the nominations will take place at the board’s next meeting.

*The board received an update on PHCC Foundation and athletic activities.