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NEWS | Nov. 1, 2022

Ceremony establishes partnership between DMA, Southside Virginia Community College 

By Mike Vrabel Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Representatives from the Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Southside Virginia Community College signed a memorandum of agreement establishing a partnership between the two organizations Oct. 27, 2022, at SVCC’s Christanna campus in Alberta, Virginia. 

Retired Brig. Gen. Walt Mercer, the DMA’s Chief Operations Officer, and Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, president of SVCC, formally signed the agreement which will allow for trade students to participate in internships and apprenticeships at DMA facilities, including Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett, as well as other Virginia National Guard facilities.  

“This is a win for DMA and for SVCC, and is a great example of the positive power of interagency partnerships,” said Mercer. “Our deputy director of Public Works, Mike Alder, is our agency internship coordinator and has been instrumental in helping us to reach this point.”

“Data tells us that students who have internship or apprenticeship experiences are more employable, better employees, and they get hired faster,” said Johnson. “Most importantly, through this partnership many participating students and graduates will secure good paying jobs that will help keep them living and working right here in Southside Virginia.” 

Students in disciplines such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing, welding and other trade fields will have the opportunity to work with DMA employees in those same fields, gaining real-world experience as they continue their schooling. In addition, the partnership opens the door for some of those same students to potentially gain employment with DMA, eliminating vacancies which have historically been difficult to fill. 

“This initiative stemmed from our DMA strategic planning efforts related to partnering with other agencies and improving effectiveness and is intended to fill a consistent staffing gap at MTC Fort Pickett for trades vacancies such as HVAC, plumbing and others,” said Mercer. “SVCC has an excellent trades program which produces new skilled people in the different trades, and part of these programs includes an apprentice or internship period where they get real world experience in the field.”

"“This need was identified within the Directorate of Public Works many years ago and evolved into a goal for the agency," said Alder. "I’m happy that we have achieved this agreement and even more excited for our future.”

Alder attended the ceremonial agreement signing, as did Robert Patton, the SVCC Dean of Career and Occupational Technologies, and Mary Jane Elkins, the SVCC Director of Institutional Advancement. 

The agreement looks to benefit both organizations and boost the employment of skilled workers across Southside Virginia. 

“There is tremendous shortage of trained workers across our ten county service area for middle-skilled workers, especially those workers that are going into the fields of HVAC, welding, building trades and other hands-on areas that help support the infrastructure industry," said Johnson. “This partnership will provide opportunities for internships and apprenticeships for students who are going into those skilled trade areas, so they can get that much needed hands-on experience.

“The word Community is in our name,” added Johnson. “We have been charged, as a community college, with getting people to work. At the end of the day, our mission is to help people advance in life. Whether students get a degree, a certificate, a diploma, or a workforce credential, the time is right to start a career in one of our many short-term training programs by enrolling at SVCC.”

Southside Virginia Community College has campus locations in Alberta, Keysville, Blackstone, Chase City, Emporia, South Boston and South Hill. 

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