GO TEC (Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers), a workforce development approach in Southern and Southwestern Virginia, was awarded the largest grant to date from the GO Virginia Competitive Funding pool. The investment by GO Virginia is matched 1-to-1 by support from over 15 local partners.

Workforce training will be provided by seven higher education institutions including the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston to address current and future market demand in areas such as precision machining, welding, IT/cyber security, advanced materials and robotics, automation and mechatronics.

At the foundational level, K-12 systems are creating Career Connection Labs that introduce middle school students to these in-demand occupations and then connect their training opportunities to high school and ultimately to higher education institutions. And at the policy level, businesses will be included on the leadership board.

The GO Virginia State Board approved an investment of up to $4.9 million in the GO TEC project Tuesday morning. The “hub and spoke” workforce delivery system focuses on occupations that have been identified as in-demand in GO Virginia Regions 1, 3 and 4, an area that encompasses many of Virginia’s rural southern counties stretching from Wythe County to Greensville County.

For businesses, GO TEC will answer a market need with a strong pipeline of skilled workers that can support the job requirements of both existing and new employers.

“It is exciting to see the breadth and depth of regional collaboration among education partners for economic development results that will occur through this unique partnership,” Region 3 GO Virginia Council Chairman Charles Majors said. “We are even more pleased that the State GO Virginia Board concurred with our recommendation to support this unique talent development model. We know that the collective work of seven educational partners, in conjunction with the K-12 systems in Southern and Southwestern Virginia, will create a strong tool for talent retention, business retention and business attraction.”

The GO TEC project leverages existing mastery-level training expertise in seven higher education partners: Southside Virginia Community College, Danville Community College, Patrick Henry Community College, Wytheville Community College, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, the New College Institute in Martinsville and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville.

Each of these partners contributes an element of the career paths identified as areas of critical need in the Regions 1, 3 and 4’s growth and diversification plans.

“I am exceptionally pleased with the level of support from localities and organizations across the regions,” said Region 3 Vice-Chairman Randy Lail. “Creative thinking and building impactful partnerships is the way that rural Virginia can successfully create healthy economies, and this is an example of rural leadership in action.”

GO TEC expands existing outcomes that began with a pilot pre-GO Virginia initiative based at Danville Community College and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in 2016. The success of that launch resulted in approval for the first Phase 1 investment by GO Virginia in 2018 when the Region 3 Council was authorized to invest its Per Capita funds. That scale-up was designed to increase the geographic reach of the program, increase the Career Connection labs and develop the curriculum.

This 2019 expansion of GO TEC gives economic developers in Regions 1, 3 and 4 both a stronger workforce system and more effective marketing message to use in their business attraction efforts. This grant will continue to expand the regional brand of workforce training and increase the number of K-12 divisions that will house Career Connection Labs.

“GO TEC is an example of the types of effective partnerships that the regions seek to build through the GO Virginia program,” said Julie Brown, interim director of the GO TEC team. “We are excited that our team of higher education partners identified this opportunity and that we were able to demonstrate to the leaders of GO Virginia that GO TEC can successfully scale-up to create an extensive talent marketing message for these three regions.”