The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center was awarded a $500,000 tobacco grant on Thursday to expand its IT Academy, with the expectation of nearly tripling the pool of graduates who come out of the program ready to fill information technology positions in the area.
The grant by the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission will pay for new instructors, four new courses, and a physical expansion to double the size of the IT Academy training area.
“We hope to begin hiring instructors in the fall and start class in the spring,” said Brenda Terry, chief financial and operations officer of the SVHEC.
The expansion aims to meet the increased demand for skilled workers by local businesses, particularly Microsoft, which operates a massive cloud computing complex in Mecklenburg County. Microsoft has committed about $200,000 to the project, and has made other, prior contributions — donating old equipment, providing scholarships for students, and even setting up a program whereby its data center employees can volunteer at the IT Academy.
“We appreciate the continued support of the Tobacco Commission and Microsoft,” said Kelly Shotwell, who serves as the program coordinator and as a trainer at the IT Academy.
The bulk of the Tobacco Commission funding will go towards hiring and paying for three full-time staff positions, easing the burden from Shotwell, who is the only full-time employee tasked to the program. She hopes to hire two instructors and a lab technician to help set up the hands-on labs that the students must complete to earn their certifications.
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