CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Piedmont Virginia Community College has plans to apply for part of a $5 million grant that’s been set up by Governor Northam.

The money could mean big changes for students taking core courses for college credit. The program would allow students to take more specialized classes first, and finish with general education courses. With this change, PVCC thinks it may be able to help students get jobs faster.

The number of skilled workers has been down in the last few years, according to Valerie Palamountain, the dean of workforce services at PVCC.

Palamountain says two programs that have garnered the most employer interest in recent years will be among the first to have the changes put in place.

“We’re going to be looking at which programs we want to focus on,” Palamountain said. “Right now, it looks like we’re going to be focusing on IT - getting credentials in that area, skills in that area - and then we’re also looking at advanced manufacturing and that will involve both the workforce side of the college as well as the academic side.”

PVCC plans to make similar changes to its other programs as well.

Administrators expect to find out how much, if any, of that grant money will come by early next year.

Press Release from Governor Ralph Northam:

RICHMOND—Today, at an event held at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Governor Ralph Northam announced a collaborative effort to transform workforce programs offered through the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). Currently, many programs intended to train students with applied skills require them to take general education courses before advancing to essential skills-based courses. To best prepare students with the skills needed for high-demand, well-paying jobs, VCCS will work to redesign career pathways so that skills training begins at the start of each program.

“Completion shouldn’t be the only measure of success at the community college level—it should also be defined by securing a good job,” said Governor Northam. “We can and should prepare students with high-demand skills the moment they enter the community college system, and ensure that they have a foundation that will yield success at several points over the course of the program, including if they leave with a job before completion.”

Governor Northam has allocated $5 million of federal workforce discretionary funds to support the redesign of Virginia’s community college system. Each college will compete for funds used to rethink how they will do business and support students as well as current and future companies. Each college will receive a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $500,000. Businesses will endorse each pathway to ensure curricula align to twenty-first century needs.

“This thoughtful transformation of the VCCS will benefit Virginians throughout the entire Commonwealth,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor to the Governor Megan Healy. “A recent study revealed that 650,000 people are currently out of work in Virginia. We are proud and excited that this initiative will allow this significant population, along with those who seek more gainful employment, an opportunity to pursue pathways to well-paying and in-demand jobs within their local communities.”

“Virginia’s community college system has always offered an abundance of programs that can help students learn new skills and continue their education,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Moving in this new direction will be transformational for job-seeking students and employers across Virginia as it seeks to improve how the system prepares and trains the workforce of the present and future.”

“What we’re announcing today will enhance our traditional applied programs, making them attractive to those seeking to stack earned credentials and further their careers,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System.