Local non-profit VA Ready committed to helping Virginians get back to work

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a new local non-profit has announced they are expanding their program to help underemployed, furloughed or part-time Virginians get back to work.

Virginia Ready is a public private partnership that launched this summer consisting of 23 Virginia businesses and the community college system with a goal to help the 1,000,000+ people who have filed for unemployment or have had employment disruption during the pandemic.

The program works with community colleges to offer courses that give jobseekers an opportunity to gain new skills and potentially a new job. People who completed the program also receive a $1,000 completion reward.

The courses can be completed in 6-12 weeks and students can earn credentials to pursue careers in growing sectors like technology, healthcare, manufacturing and other skilled trades.

Caren Meerick, CEO of VA Ready, says that the program can help people find jobs quickly.

“People can go into these fields and find good-paying jobs that are resilient and give them a brighter future now, and help them get back to work. A lot of jobs in Virginia have gone unfilled, some even before the pandemic started,” Meerick said.

35 companies across Virginia that have jobs available post their job openings on vaready.org, and several businesses in the Richmond area have also partnered financially with VA Ready via a two-year commitment — companies like Dominion Energy, Bon Secours, Genworth, Co-Star and Microsoft are taking part.

Over 500 people have started the program, and James Sayles already found a job after enrolling.

Sayles is one of VA Ready’s ‘Richmond Scholars’ who went to John Tyler in Chester to learn to be a truck driver via the program.

He says that VA Ready “stepped up and helped” him get back to work.

“I’ve been an electrician all my life. I switched it up. I’m 50 years old and I’m gonna go be a truck driver now,” Sayles said. “I’ve been saying all my life that, “You know what? Let’s do something different. Let’s jump in a truck and just drive across the country.”

“My son is 13 and I wanna show to him that, even at 50 years old, dad can still go back to school and learn something new. And he’s proud of me.”

WATCH: James Sayles gives his testimony on how VA Ready helped him get back into the workforce

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