NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Since mid-March, more than one million Virginians have filed for unemployment, many as a direct result of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Former Norfolk resident Glenn Youngkin and his wife knew jobs were out there. The problem was, many people looking for work didn’t have the skills needed to get hired.

“We saw the huge layoffs that were happening. So, we started to think long and hard about how we could help those people,” explained Youngkin. “We began to really look at re-training and re-skilling people for industries that were growing faster and actually wanted to hire people.” 

They created Virginia Ready, a multifaceted nonprofit aimed at connecting people looking for jobs with training programs to gain new skills and then with companies looking to hire.

“What is most compelling are three sectors, technology, healthcare and manufacturing. These are jobs in the technology sector like a cloud technician or a network technician. In the medical field, they need medical assistants and nursing assistants. And in manufacturing, it’s welders and machine operators and electricians. And what we found in those sectors are lots of companies want to hire people and all they need is a short training period to qualify them to be hired.”

Virginia Ready also works with community colleges to get people into training programs. Locally, they do a lot of work with Tidewater Community College. Most programs take between six to 12 weeks. Some accelerated programs in the marine industry only take four weeks to complete.

Upon graduation, some of the biggest employers in the area are looking to hire.

“We have 22 of the largest employers across Virginia participating with Virginia Ready. In the Hampton Roads area, it’s Newport News Shipbuilding, Sentara and Bank of America.”  

To pay for it, Virginia Ready connects people with an existing government program called FastForward which covers about two-thirds of re-training costs.

Participants can sign up for the Virginia Ready Scholars program. Upon completion, Virginia Ready awards them with $1,000 Credential Achievement Award.

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