Representatives from Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia and Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) recently celebrated the six graduates of the inaugural “WIRED for Success” electrical training program.
The students completed the four-month program on Jan. 22 and received National Center for Construction Education & Research credentials, OSHA certifications, as well as new toolboxes with tools donated by Peninsula Worklink. With the support of Goodwill’s job preparation services and local employers, all six are employed in the electrical field.
Housed at the Thomas Nelson Center for Building and Construction Trades at Goodwill’s Hampton Support Center, the program provides classroom instruction on basic electrical skills used in residential, commercial and maintenance industries. Adjacent to the classroom, a lab equipped with building frameworks, live electrical circuits and appliances gives students hands-on experience.
A collaborative effort between Goodwill, TNCC and Peninsula Worklink, WIRED for Success has a shared goal of changing lives through workforce education and training while promoting economic growth in Hampton Roads.
“We wanted to create a fast-paced, innovative and nurturing environment with partners who share our commitment to the future of our local workforce,” said John Dougherty, Goodwill’s vice president of community workforce. “We could not be prouder of our graduates. The support from the business community and employment partners has been invaluable to the program’s success,” he said.
Kayla Jackson*, a single mother of two, joined the program after researching other trade credentialing resources. “I want to flip houses, so I needed a program that provided electrical and other maintenance training,” she said. “I like WIRED’s mix of classroom learning and hands-on experience inside the lab facility.”
Jackson and the other students worked with a Goodwill employment specialist who helped them create individualized career plans, and had access to Goodwill’s other job readiness and employment services at no cost. Students also work with Goodwill’s job developers to connect with WIRED business partners to secure employment.
“That was the best part – knowing you could have a job waiting for you at the end. I know many people who went to a four-year college and struggled with finding work after graduation,” said Jackson. She received and accepted a job offer from a local apartment management company, and is now working towards more credentials in HVAC and facilities maintenance.
A.J. Milheim joined the WIRED program to become an electrician after years of deferring college due to its high costs. “This program was awesome. We could study from books and learn about things like conduits and wiring–then literally walk a few feet over to the lab area and apply what we just learned with our hands on a real-life project,” he said.
He also appreciates how the same businesses that helped launch the program stayed involved and came to the lab to speak to students. “It was almost like an interview; the way we were able to ask businesses what they looked for in job candidates. They answered questions about day-to-day tasks, annual salaries and working conditions,” he said.
Milheim received a job offer from Bay Electric upon graduation. He accepted the position, and he is studying to earn a CDL Class B certification. “I’ve already talked to two of my friends about applying to the WIRED program,” he said.
The program’s unique real-world settings set it apart from other local trades credentialing programs, according to Dudley Harris, vice president of special projects at Bay Electric. “These students are on a fast track to apprenticeships. When they come out of the program, they have the skills to walk onto a work site and start day one,” said Harris. Bay Electric hired two program graduates, including Milheim.
Harris also applauds Goodwill’s’ commitment to creating an employer-driven program. “I was impressed with the curriculum and the lab facility. Goodwill is truly dedicated to these students, and the organization understands the importance of partnering with schools and employers,” Harris said.
“The WIRED program is a model for effective collaboration that transforms the lives of job seekers and provides real solutions for employers,” said Dougherty. “We are excited to see this model grow across our territory for other trades as we match the needs of employers with training and credentialing for individuals seeking sustainable careers.”
The Commonwealth’s Fast Forward program for community college workforce credentialing and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provide funding for the training.
Goodwill designed the lab facility and TNCC designed the program curriculum with assistance from an advisory group of local businesses: W.M. Jordan, Barton Malow, Warwick Heating & Plumbing, Bay Electric, Hampton Public Schools maintenance, L.E. Balance and Bud’s Plumbing and Heating.
*Name changed for this story