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Danville's Institute receives $500K grant to grow apprenticeship initiative

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The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research worked with Virginia Department of Labor and Industry and Virginia Technical Institute to help Southside Mechanical Services achieve registration as a state apprenticeship sponsor. Marking the partnership are plumber apprentices (front row, from left) Corey Woods, James Hess, Caleb Shelton and Anthony Worsham Jr. (second row) Natori Neal, Institute; Kara Joyce, Virginia Department of Labor and Industry; Justin Hylton, vice president, Southside Mechanical Services; George Hylton, owner/president, Southside Mechanical Services; David Sage, executive director of the Virginia Technical Institute; and Jessie Vernon, Institute.

Danville’s Institute for Advanced Learning and Research recently received $500,000 to expand an apprenticeship initiative.

The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission awarded the money for what’s known as the ExTRA — Expanding Talent through Registered Apprenticeships — program.

The Institute aims to provide help for up to 36 new apprentices each year for three years, according to a news release. Employers will provide wages and fringe benefits averaging $16 per hour.

The plan is for the Institute to to create a regional apprenticeship consortium that will recruit apprentices and employers. It also will service as the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s intermediary sponsor to help employers lacking capacity to fulfill the role as primary sponsor, a news release stated.

“Apprenticeships are a win-win for both employers and job seekers willing to learn on the job,” said Julie Brown, vice president of advanced learning at the Institute. “The employer remains globally competitive by recruiting and retaining a highly skilled staff, and the job seeker receives a job with a good starting wage, valuable training and the chance to earn a portable Journeyworker credential without accumulating debt.”


Participating in an apprenticeship signing ceremony are (front row, from left) John Daniel (Daniel Builders, LLC), Ulises Jimenez and David Sage (Virginia Technical Institute); (second row) Natori Neal (Institute for Advanced Learning and Research), Kara Joyce (Virginia Department of Labor and Industry) and Julie Brown (Institute).

The state model will provide a mix of on-the-job training and technical instruction.

Sticking with its mission of economic development, the Institute will focus on expanding apprenticeships for occupations in construction, health care, early childhood education, manufacturing and information technology.

With the money from the tobacco commission, the Institute will be able to have a dedicated apprenticeship coordinator position. The grant also provides incentives to employers to cover direct costs of required related technical instruction at a limit of $2,700 per year per apprentice.

The money also will help create a regional apprenticeship association with a website and marketing materials for recruitment, the news release stated.

Employers, along with the Danville Regional Foundation, will provide matching funds for this grant. In all — including wages and benefits — the contribution from employers is expected to be $7 million over three years.

Natori Neal, the apprenticeship coordinator at the Institute, was hired for the project.

“IALR works to increase awareness for registered apprenticeship as a high-quality, work-based learning model, provide companies with program development and registration support, and offer connections to resources that are integral to program sustainability,” Neal said in a statement. “We also have the capability to manage the administration of programs for businesses that do not have the capacity to serve as the primary sponsors of apprenticeship programs.”

So far, Neal has aided five employers to create registered apprenticeship programs, the release stated, and there’s one company as an employer of record with the Institute-based program.

“The journey to establish our apprenticeship program has not been one we’ve traveled alone,” said Justin Hylton, vice president of plumbing solutions provider Southside Mechanical Services Inc. in Danville. “We’ve had a lot of help from the folks at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, our DOLI representative, as well as the people with Virginia Technical Institute.”

Interested businesses or potential apprentices should contact Neal at or 434-766-6657.

Job fair hosted in Danville

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